For a time, an 0-4 start to a Bears season wasn’t all that noteworthy. One happened in 1997, another in 1998 and, after a recovery year under Dick Jauron in which Gary Crowton’s “razzle-dazzle offense (thank you, Gunther Cunningham) befuddled the Kansas City Chiefs before the Bears went back to losing five of their next seven, in 2000.
Moods of teams can be difficult to read and not always all that meaningful. Teams with good attitudes but no talent don’t necessarily win just because they don’t quit or try hard.
But while the 2015 Bears have fallen short to three 2014 playoff teams with a combined mark of 7-2 through three weeks, “I think there’s a whole lot of football left,” said tight end Martellus Bennett. “And it’s exciting every week to have another chance to get better, improve and see that improvement on tape.”
In coach John Fox’s mind, “I have to remind people that 1 ½ of those three [losses] that we were without our starting quarterback. That’s not an excuse. It’s just a reality. We’re missing some integral parts that hopefully, at some point, we get back. When that is, I don’t know. I don’t put time frames on it.
“But the good news is that we’ve got to look at some other people, some other guys and see how they react in those situations. And hopefully we’re learning some stuff that will help us moving forward… . There's no doubt that those teams [Green Bay, Arizona, Seattle] have beat some pretty good teams along the way and they are good football teams but this league's about winning no matter who you line up against, so we're still in that process."
Somehow the prospect of the Bears losing their fourth straight in 2015, and ninth straight going back into last season, is spectacularly improbable given that teams with new coaches typically make some sort of first-year improvement. Not necessarily always a lot; there was, after all, a reason why a coaching change happened.
Fox was privately and publicly not viewing his team as a catastrophe-in-waiting when he took the job and even into training camp and the regular season before the problems started. The intriguing part of Sunday’s game with the Oakland Raiders is what plays out at quarterback if Jay Cutler is able to play.
“It's just like when you try to predict before the season, it's hard to do so you're right we've had three opportunities in the regular season and they haven't turned out like we expect,” Fox said. “I think all three of them take on a different personality. I think every opponent takes on its own personality, how you match up as an individual football team vs. your opponent. Obviously disappointed that we're 0-for-3 in those opportunities.
“I don't know that it's all been horrible. I know the result is horrible but hopefully we can grow and learn and get better from it moving forward.”
“Forward” is indeed the focus, vs. too many times in the recent past that “forward” was a source of dread. Not now.
“When you have all the guys on the field, the 53, we’re really going to be the team that we want to be,” Bennett said. “Guys are inching, inching, just not all the way there yet.”