The Chicago Bears made the playoffs and that’s a good thing.
But it’s odd that I must write that sentence.
This is a franchise that has just two playoff berths in a decade and some fans are… upset?
NBC Sports Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz posted this Twitter poll after the Bears’ 35-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday and a third of voters apparently prefer to not watch their team play a playoff game:
Yes, the Bears finished the season 8-8 and only got into the playoffs because the NFL expanded the tournament to 14 teams and the Rams beat the Cardinals 18-7 Sunday, but that doesn’t mean the Bears should just forfeit next Sunday's Wild Card game against the Saints.
Let’s be clear: You can be happy about your team making the playoffs AND demand more at the same time. If Sunday’s loss confirmed anything, it’s that the Bears are a mediocre football team and aren’t in the same league as the Packers.
But I remember when the Bears were an awful team and weren’t in the same league as the Packers. I covered those teams too.
The No. 1 priority for this franchise is still finding that game-changing quarterback – the Bears’ version of Aaron Rodgers. But the Rams losing to the Cardinals Sunday would not have sent the Bears into some major rebuild if that’s what you’re hoping for. And even if it did – it would not be smart. This is not baseball where you either have to outspend teams or go through a five-year rebuild. You can be competitive, lose in the playoffs and still find your franchise quarterback. The Bears know that better anyone. They passed on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes while the two teams that acquired those quarterbacks were teams that were regularly making the playoffs, even if they weren’t realistically competing for Super Bowls.
No, you should not accept mediocrity, but the necessary changes should be unaffected by getting into the playoffs. The glaring issues are still the glaring issues either way, and you might as well get a shot in the tournament while getting your players valuable playoff reps. At worst, you get blown out and confirm any changes that need to be made. At best, you might win a game or two and make some improvements. Contrary to popular belief, players and coaches can get better with experience.
Getting into the playoffs doesn’t change the fact that the Bears finished 3-7 after a 5-1 start. Their six-game losing streak further exposed roster and coaching flaws that were still evident during the successful start to the season. But firing the general manager and head coach and starting all over doesn’t change anything if Bears ownership doesn’t look within and think bigger. If you keep having to fire the people you hire, then there’s something wrong with the people doing the hiring.
If anything, Sunday’s results created the best-case scenario for the Bears. Another sizeable loss to the Packers confirmed the gap that exists in a rivalry that is entering its third decade of lopsidedness. But the Rams’ win over the Cardinals also gives the organization one more week to evaluate a situation that is murky at best.
I would still consider bringing in a new football savvy team president to oversee the organization and make sure the next stab at a franchise quarterback leads to better results. That may lead to one more year of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy or it may not, but as much as some fans don’t want to accept it, giving a 42-year-old head coach with a 28-21 record and zero losing seasons another chance is warranted.
In the meantime, the Bears have a playoff game to prepare for and nothing about this opportunity is bad. More football is good football. You can be happy about that and demand more from your favorite football team at the same time.