Bears

Bears' playoff hopes dashed in Week 11 loss to Rams, so what's next?

Bears' playoff hopes dashed in Week 11 loss to Rams, so what's next?

The Bears' 2019 season all but came to an end Sunday night after falling to the Los Angeles Rams, 17-7, in what amounted to another lackluster performance by an offense that climaxed late in the fourth quarter when Matt Nagy pulled Mitch Trubisky for Chase Daniel.

Nagy said after the game that his decision to pull Trubisky was related to a hip injury he suffered a few series earlier. But social media lit up with speculation that the Bears finally decided it was time to move on from the franchise's most costly asset.

Whether Nagy and the Bears are being honest about Trubisky's health will be revealed in time.

It seems more likely that it was injury-related considering Trubisky had one of his better performances of the season, even if his final stat line (24-of-43, 190 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) doesn't reflect it. He was victimized by several drops.

But we've been down this road before. Another loss followed by an optimistic message from Nagy about the character in the locker room and the ability to continue playing hard in a season with nothing left to play for. Nagy said the pieces are in place for the Bears to have a productive offense, but early-game failures and the inability to seize the moment -- like converting turnovers into touchdowns -- continue to haunt the team.

Sound familiar? 

At this point, it's time to look forward. With 10 games (4-6) and 11 weeks in the rear-view mirror, the roster's weaknesses have crystallized and the offseason needs have become clear. If this team really wants to be a Super Bowl contender, changes have to happen.

It starts at quarterback, where general manager Ryan Pace is facing the most difficult decision of his tenure in Chicago. Trubisky is his guy, the player he hand-picked to be this franchise's Drew Brees. He hasn't shown anything on the field in many of his 35 regular-season starts that suggests he can be relied on as a consistent NFL starter, let alone a Hall-of-Fame caliber player. So, the most important responsibility Pace must meet over the next several months is to protect Chicago's championship window by adding a quality veteran quarterback who can win games.

But it doesn't end there. The Bears can't just add a stop-gap; the veteran they add has to serve as a bridge to a bright future. Maybe that's Trubisky. Maybe it's a rookie added in the second round of April's 2020 NFL draft. The bottom line is Pace can't get this wrong and he can't let his ego get in the way. He has to be honest in his evaluation of Trubisky. His career and the future of this team depend on it.

The Bears' problems aren't limited to Trubisky, though. The offense as a whole needs rebuilding and the most logical place to start is the offensive line. The duo of tackles Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie have been solid in recent seasons, but as 2019 has shown, solid isn't good enough. The Bears have to consider adding a top-flight offensive tackle in free agency (if there's one available) and invest draft picks into the offensive line. No position is immune to an upgrade at this point. Pace has to hit the reset button and evaluate all five starters without being influenced by draft pedigree or contract status. 

As for the defense, the Bears don't need much of a facelift. But they do need a running mate for Khalil Mack. The pass rush has been non-existent since Akiem Hicks suffered an elbow injury in Week 5, and he was placed on injured reserve shortly thereafter. Leonard Floyd has been a complete failure as a pass rusher and no other Bears defender aside from Nick Williams has had a pulse in that department since the loss of Hicks, including Mack.

The Bears mortgaged their future on Mack when they traded two first-round picks (and then some) for him at the start of the 2018 season. In order to get a maximum return on that investment, they need to provide him with some help. As much as he plays like Superman, he isn't a superhero. If the Bears don't find a way to generate pressure opposite him, he'll fail to live up to the expectations that came along with the trade.

And then there's the unavoidable problem at kicker. Eddy Pineiro is trending in the wrong direction after missing two kicks Sunday night, and while Nagy said the Bears aren't going to bring in any competition, they have to invest free-agent dollars on a proven veteran this offseason.

Sure, they tried that approach with the failed Cody Parkey transaction, but that failure can't make Pace fear a second swing. Too many points have been left on the field because of missed kicks. It's unacceptable and needs to be a priority, not a gimmicky series of tryouts.

Quarterback, offensive line, pass rusher and kicker. The Bears' season is over because of those four problem areas, and it may take more than one offseason to truly repair.

And we haven't even tapped into the coaching staff. That's for another day.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Kevin White's NFL career was an 'every day battle, mentally and physically'

Kevin White's NFL career was an 'every day battle, mentally and physically'

Many Bears fans already know the toll that Kevin White's injuries took on him physically. Leg breaks, hamstring tears, and shoulder fractures all contributed mightily to White's underwhelming time in Chicago, but the lesser known side of things centers on the emotional toll those injuries took. Talking with our Bears Insider JJ Stankevitz, White went into detail about what it was like for him to be living through that: 

It was hard. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. It was hard because I love the game so much and want to be great so bad and did the right things, be a good person — forget about football, I try to be a super good person. And it was just like oh my gosh, when am I going to get my chance or my turn? Or when am I going to be like, oh my gosh I got through it and now I’m with this team or got this contract and I was able to score the winning touchdown or whatever. So I just kept thinking that’s gonna come, it’s gonna come, it has to happen. Just stay the course, keep fighting, keep battling. You got the talent, just stay healthy so we can show it. So that’s what every day kept me going.

... Like, you don’t understand what that player has to go through day in, day out. Even sleeping, it’s hard to sleep because your mind is like, I’m ready to play, I wanna go. Your body is like, no shot. So you gotta sleep on that. Then you get kind of bored, or sometimes you know what the media’s saying, fans are saying, it kind of gets you like, I’m gonna go out there and run a route. I want to be able to do it right now. Like I want to be able to do it now. So you gotta be able to deal with that mentally. Physically, your body’s not ready, so you gotta do treatment and extra things every single day. You don’t just go in for treatment from 9 to 11 and then you’re done for the day. That’s not it. It’s an every day battle, mentally and physically. 

It's fascinating – not to mention a bit heartbreaking – to get such a first-hand account of what failure in the NFL feels like. You can listen to the entire interview on the latest episode of the Under Center Podcast: 

NFL head coaches can reportedly return to team facilities next week

NFL head coaches can reportedly return to team facilities next week

No one steals thunder quite like the NFL. 

On a day when the NHL is planning to publicly announce how their season will return, it's being reported that the NFL may take a significant step towards their own reopening – and soon. 

Yahoo Sports' NFL columnist Charles Robinson is reporting that NFL coaches may return to team facilities as early as next week, and the league has its eyes on OTAs in mid-to-late June:

The sources told Yahoo Sports that if coaches resume their in-house work next week, minicamps including players could be scheduled as early as June 15 or as late as June 27, depending on COVID-19 data and whether a handful of franchises get a “go ahead” signal from state governments to resume full operations. Resuming full operations and getting a minicamp scheduled would represent the league's biggest step to date toward keeping the 2020 NFL season on track for a regularly scheduled fall kickoff.

Robinson's source adds that 'June 15 and June 27 are the dates that have been identified as potential full-squad minicamp windows,' and the 'key hurdle' is the timeline in which California governor Gavin Newsom begins to reopen the state. Newsom has already expressed a willingness to have professional sports team return under strict and specific guidelines. 

The news is a good sign for the return of the NFL on a normal schedule – a reality that's looked increasingly likely over the past couple weeks.