Bears Sneak Past Backups, Finish at .500

Thank goodness it’s over.

Chicago Bears fans around the world took a major sigh of relief in the waning seconds of the team’s Week 17 matchup against the rival Minnesota Vikings, who were resting all starters in what was a meaningless game for their playoff seeding. After being mediocre all day long against a second team defense, he finally stepped up with a big completion to rookie wide receiver Riley Ridley for 33 yards on fourth down.

The Bears continued to march downfield and chose to stay out of the end zone to chew clock and send out Eddy Pineiro for a game winning chip shot. His 22 yard boot was immaculate to give the Bears a 21-19 edge with just seconds to go, and Minnesota QB’s Hail Mary attempt was intercepted by safety Eddie Jackson with no time remaining.

This game was a good definition of what this season has been for the Bears: average. Mitchell Trubisky barely creeped over 200 yards passing and accounted for exactly zero touchdowns against a backup Vikings defense. Rookie running back David Montgomery had one of his few productive games this season despite spotty blocking and offensive linemen consistently getting beat, even if it was five offensive linemen versus four or less defensive linemen.

Despite being set up with two early turnovers, the offense only turned those possessions into six points. The defense looked exhausted and just flat out done dealing with a sorry offense who couldn’t keep them off the field for long. With the close win, the Bears improve to 8-8, the epitome of mediocre, and now that mercy has come and finally put an end to this painful season. Now that the offseason is upon us, it is time to ask “what were the problems?” find those answers, and make the needed adjustments.

The first glaring issue is the quarterback and general of the offense: Mitchell Trubisky. Throughout this season, he has shown an inability to read the defense, go through progressions, find the open receiver (which there have been plenty of), and make the throw. He has been in the league for three years now, and is yet to show any sort of continued consistency. It’s been this long, and I find it hard to imagine that type of consistency ever will come. He does have a few things going for him, though. He is a great guy with a ton of talent, a passion for the game, a great work ethic, and a phenomenal coach and roster around him. 

Trubisky is currently the only quarterback under contract on the Bears roster, and GM Ryan Pace verbally committed to him for 2020 (which doesn’t mean much at this point in the offseason) at he and Matt Nagy’s end-of-season press conference on December 31. It was also reported by Adam Hoge that the Bears handed four assistant coaches the pink slip: offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride, and assistant special teams coach Brock Olivo. According to Adam Jahns, Helfrich and Hiestand were put in charge of the running game, which greatly failed the Chicago offense in 2019. My two cents: I have no issue with the firing of Helfrich, but the Hiestand move was a little more questionable given his rich history as a line coach. I will for sure monitor his situation to see where he goes next and how much success he has. 

As for replacements, I would like to see former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur brought in as offensive coordinator. He has ties to Andy Reid just like Nagy does, and did an awesome job as Minnesota’s OC and play caller in 2017. He was interviewed by the Bears for their head coaching vacancy early in 2018, which ended up being filled by Nagy, of course. I don’t have much knowledge about possible coaches for the Bears’ other three new vacancies, but I do know that a respected offensive line coach in Bill Callahan, who was most recently with Washington as their O-line coach and interim head coach after the Jay Gruden firing, is on the market.

After 2017 second round pick Adam Shaheen and 2018 prized free agent tight end Trey Burton both went down with injuries early on, the Bears got pretty much nothing out of the tight end group, which is supposed to be an integral part of Matt Nagy’s offense. The firing of Gilbride is the first step in fixing this issue.

As mentioned earlier, the offensive line was a mess this season. I am unsure whether Hiestand was the issue, but only time will tell. This season, we saw left tackle Charles Leno consistently get torched, even in the Minnesota game against backups. Leno also led the league in penalties. In the first half of the season, the James Daniels-to-center experiment failed miserably, and he was sent back to left guard and Cody Whitehair back to center.

Right guard Kyle Long has had so many injuries throughout his career that he cannot play at a high level anymore, and he was placed on IR close to midseason. Undrafted rookie Alex Bars looked promising in the preseason, but the Bears instead went with former defensive lineman and converted guard Rashaad Coward and veteran Ted Larsen, both of whom did not play too particularly well.

These reasons, and of course, others too, are why the Chicago Bears took a step back in 2019. In the near future, I will be going more in depth on each of these major reasons and giving a few possible solutions for each. Happy New Year to all!

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