The Bears thought they were a kicker away from going to the Super Bowl entering the 2019 season. But even before the ball drops on 2020, the season that started with so much promise is over.
The biggest question of the post mortem is how Matt Nagy's 202 offense could average just 17.3 points per game. Former Bears offensive lineman Olin Kreutz has a simple answer to that question.
"Mitch Trubisky doesn’t fit in the scheme,” he said on NBC Sports Chicago's Football Aftershow following the Bears' season finale.
The tougher question may be how to fix that. But the blueprint may have been staring at the Bears on Sunday, right across the field in purple and gold.
In 2018, the Vikings finished the season 7-8-1 and missed the playoffs.
"What does Mike Zimmer, the head coach, do?" Kreutz rhetorically asked the postgame show panel. "He brings in Gary Kubiak. He brings in Rick Dennison, the offensive line coach. He brings in [Brian] Pariani, the tight end coach. And they install this zone boot system which basically hides a quarterback who can’t process the information."
In 2019, the Vikings bounced back with a 10-6 season and a playoff berth.
"Head coach Matt Nagy, will he fire his system?” Kreutz asked.
That's the biggest question heading into the Bears' offseason.
"Quarterbacks just don’t grow on trees. Good quarterbacks don’t," former Bears running back Matt Forte said on Football Aftershow. "Kirk [Cousins] isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of Mitch. They changed the philosophy. The best thing to add to a quarterback is a good running game, and that’s what Dalvin Cook did this year for them.
"And look, they’re going to the playoffs.”
In his third NFL season, Cook ran for more than 1,000 yards for the first time. He also caught 53 passes and scored 13 touchdowns. Could David Montgomery do that in his second season with the Bears?
Because general manager Ryan Pace has aggressively traded future draft picks (for Khalil Mack and to move up for Trubisky), the opportunities to improve the roster are limited. For the second year in a row, the Bears won't have a first-round draft pick. And cap space is projected to be tight, ruling out big splashes in free agency.
"Because you’ve traded picks away, you have to figure out how you can win now," Kreutz said. "And the way you win now is with that defense. Eventually you have to change the [offensive] scheme you’re running."
If the Bears get healthy on defense this offseason, they won't need much out of their offense to contend in 2020. They'll simply need a competent offense to win.
"It seems like the Bears are repeating history: You have a good defense, your offense isn’t so good and the one thing you need from your offense is manage games," former Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. "Don’t give the ball up and eat up time to keep your defense off the field. We’re seeing a Bears team who has the opportunity to do that.
"Every time you don’t hand that ball off when you’ve shown you can run the ball, to me you’re taking a ring opportunity away from your team."
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