Biggest Bears ’19 disappointment: NFC was there for the taking, and Bears couldn’t ​​​​​​​

Biggest Bears ’19 disappointment: NFC was there for the taking, and Bears couldn’t ​​​​​​​

Might-have-been’s aren’t always particularly useful but in the case of the 2019 Bears, standing 6-6 heading into their season’s fourth quarter, maybe…

Because the reality for the Bears is that the NFC was theirs for the taking beyond any real or fanciful expectations that 2018’s misleading 12-4 produced.

The supposedly first-place schedule that last year handed them turned out to be far from daunting, for the simple reason that 10 of the Bears’ games will have been against teams that – like the Bears – have played out to be worse than they were last season, some flat-out bad.

Maybe one takeaway is that for as poorly as the Bears have performed too often this season, playing only marginally better (certainly at a small handful of positions) would place them at or near the level that expectations had them.

The Broncos, Redskins, Lions, Giants – bottom feeders in 2018 who have worsened in ’19 – have done things that make the Bears’ 2019 feel worse. The Lions defeated the Chargers and Eagles; the Bears couldn’t. The Chargers beat Green Bay; the Bears couldn’t. The Broncos beat the Chargers; the Bears couldn’t.

Minnesota, one of the few better in ’19 than in ’18, demolished the Oakland Raiders by 20 points one week before the Bears throttled the Vikings and two weeks before the Raiders trampled the Bears.

But the fact that three of the Bears’ six losses – Chargers, Rams, Eagles – were to teams that have stumbled to multiple bad losses makes the Bears’ 2019 all the more disappointing and disturbing.

The NFL is full of on-field contradictions, but this….

Had the Bears simply been outclassed by first-place-schedule teams – like New Orleans, Oakland, and Green Bay, which they were – teams that are notably better winning-percentage-wise than they were last year, that might have been understandable, written off to simply improved competition.

But the losses to the Chargers (.750 in ‘18; .364 in ’19); Rams (.813 in ’18; .545 in ’19); and Eagles (.563 in ’18; .455 in ’19) are the difference between 6-6 and 9-3, and 9-3 would be good enough for the No. 3 or 5 playoff seed, pending the games this weekend.

None of those can be replayed and the past can indeed be the refuge of cowards and losers. But Dallas and Kansas City, two of the next three Bears opponents, already have lost as many games (six and four, respectively) in three-fourths of this season as they did all last year.

“You know where we stand and everyone starts getting to the what-ifs,” coach Matt Nagy said on Friday. “But you know we just feel like it's been such a unique year to us with everything and where we've been losing four in a row and now winning three out of the last four. That's been a challenge, right?

“We know what's ahead of us but we can only control what goes on [next] Thursday night. And we understand, too, that Dallas is in a very similar situation. And so you know both of us being 6-6, having an opportunity to play at home is going to be fun.”

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Should the Bears trade for this Ryan Pace player?

Should the Bears trade for this Ryan Pace player?

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks wants out of L.A. It's no secret the Rams are trying to trade him, and he expressed his desire to be traded on Twitter on Friday.

The Bears have a need in their offense for a speed wide receiver, and Cooks has been one of the most explosive weapons at the position throughout his career.

Prior to last season's offensive meltdown in Los Angeles, Cooks recorded four-straight 1,000-yard seasons and averaged more than 15 yards per catch in three of those years. He's still only 26 years old and has plenty of juice left in his legs to offer his next team a similar level of production; he would be a dynamic complement to Allen Robinson and would round out Chicago's wide receiver corps.

And here's the thing: we know Ryan Pace loves his former Saints. He just rewarded Jimmy Graham with a two-year, $16 million contract despite a market that likely wouldn't have valued his services anywhere near that amount.

But Graham was one of Pace's guys from his days in New Orleans, and so is Cooks.

The Saints traded a first- and third-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft to move up for Cooks (they moved from No. 27 to No. 20 to select him). Pace was New Orleans' Director of Player Personnel at the time; his voice was a powerful one in the decision to acquire Cooks.

The biggest impediment to making a move for Cooks is his contract. He signed a five-year, $81 million deal with the Rams in 2018 and has a $16.8 million cap hit in 2020. With Robinson looking to break the bank on a contract extension in the coming weeks, it's highly unlikely the Bears will commit that much money to the wide receiver position. Any trade will have to include some kind of restructured contract or an agreement that the Rams carry a significant portion of Cooks' cap hit.

There's also the issue of compensation that the Bears could send to Los Angeles for a player as dynamic as Cooks. A trade would require at least one of Chicago's second-round picks. Maybe that's all it will take, but the Rams would be justified asking for more.

The dollars have to make sense and the compensation has to be appealing enough to get a deal done. But there's no doubt Pace is at least researching his options.

Cooks, unlike Graham, would be one of Pace's guys who Bears fans would welcome with open arms.

Bears land two potential starters in latest mock draft

Bears land two potential starters in latest mock draft

The 2020 NFL draft is less than four weeks away and now that the first wave of free agency is over, team needs have begun to crystallize.

For the Chicago Bears, that means youth at tight end and a starting-quality safety will be high on their draft wish list. According to Chad Reuter's latest 2020 mock draft, the Bears check both boxes with potential starters in the second round.

At pick No. 43, Chicago adds LSU safety Grant Delpit, who prior to the 2019 college football season was considered by most draft analysts to be the most gifted defensive player not named Chase Young.

Delpit's final season with the Tigers wasn't the best for his draft stock. He lacked the splash plays that made him a household name last season, but he still displayed the kind of aggressive and fearless style that would make him a strong complement next to Eddie Jackson, who the Bears want to get back to playing centerfield. Delpit will slide to the second round because he's an inconsistent finisher, but he'd offer great value for a Bears defense that needs an aggressive run defender on its third level.

At No. 50, the Bears snag a potential starter at tight end in Purdue's Brycen Hopkins

Hopkins is a wide receiver in a tight end's body; he's everything Chicago's offense has been missing. Regardless of who wins the team's quarterback competition this summer, a player like Hopkins has the kind of playmaking ability to instantly become one of the early reads in the offense's passing game. 

With veterans Jimmy Graham and Trey Burton already on the roster, a player like Hopkins could be eased into the lineup with the expectation that he'd eventually become the primary receiving option at the position by the end of his rookie season.

Not a bad second-round haul. It's critically important that Ryan Pace hits on his second-rounders, too. The Bears' next pick doesn't occur until the fifth round, which is usually when special teams players and practice squad candidates are added.