When the Bears hired Matt Nagy as head coach in 2018, the vision was that he'd bring to Chicago much of what he learned during his time as Andy Reid's offensive understudy in Kansas City. He was supposed to be the Bears' version of Doug Pederson, who like Nagy was a Reid disciple with the Eagles and Chiefs from 2009-2016.
Pederson won the Super Bowl in his second season as Eagles coach. Not so much for Nagy.
The Lombardi Trophy isn't the only difference between Pederson and Nagy since becoming head coaches. Pederson, much like Reid, has the luxury of a superstar player filling the role of one of the Reid offense's most critical positions: tight end.
The Eagles field Zach Ertz. The Chiefs have Travis Kelce. Meanwhile, Nagy and the Bears have Ben Braunecker?
Braunecker was the only tight end to record a reception in Chicago's 17-7 loss to the Rams Sunday night. And it was just one catch for eight yards.
Trey Burton was placed on injured reserve (calf) after Week 10's win over the Lions; it brought an end to a brutal season for last year's free-agent prize. Burton's 2019 will finish with just 14 catches for 84 yards.
Remember: Burton is the player who Ryan Pace and Nagy dubbed as Chicago's version of Ertz and Kelce.
Ertz has 55 catches for 621 yards and two scores while Kelce's registered 56 catches for 741 yards and three scores so far this season.
Burton will enter the third year of a four-year, $32 million contract in 2020 and might be too costly for the Bears to cut loose this offseason. He'll cost the team $7.5 million against the cap if they decide to part ways. An argument can be made that he's been limited by injuries all season (he's played in just 50.1 percent of the team's snaps this year) and deserves another shot to prove he's the kind of playmaker he was signed to be. At this point, there may not be much of a choice.
Former 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen has been a massive bust. His career with the Bears has been defined by a series of nagging injuries. And even when he's been healthy, he's played like 'just a guy.' He has one year left on his rookie contract but doesn't appear likely to factor into the position moving forward.
Even if Burton remains on the roster next year and Shaheen is given another chance to develop, Pace has to make tight end a priority position over the next few months of roster reconstruction. There will be some intriguing Day 2 prospects in the NFL Draft, like Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, and veteran options like Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald should find themselves on the open market in free agency. At least one of those avenues should be explored.
Sunday night's disappointing and likely season-ending loss was the result of a year of underachievement by the Bears. And no position has underachieved more than this tight end group.