The 2019 Bears are past the point of living week-to-week. In the midst of what could soon devolve into a completely lost season, many of the current challenges facing the team are far bigger — and far more existential — than, say, this week’s matchup with the Lions.
Chief among those challenges is identifying where exactly this season went awry and what player(s), coach(es), executive(s) or unit(s) will be held accountable moving forward. In recent weeks, the brunt of that blame has fallen squarely on Mitch Trubisky, and it’s not hard to reason why. Trubisky has regressed substantially in his third season in the league, one year after amassing an encouraging 3,644 total yards and 27 total touchdowns in 2018.
Year 2 in Matt Nagy’s offense was supposed to be Trubisky’s ‘leap’ year, but, to put it bluntly, that hasn’t panned out. I could list his 2019 numbers, but the eye-test is enough. He looks completely lost, and the team has imploded around him.
Still, when Nagy says the team’s issues are deeper than the quarterback, he’s right. The offensive line is in shambles. Untimely special teams foibles have begun to rear their ugly head again. The Bears’ once-vaunted defense now enters this week ranked eighth in defensive DVOA. (That, for the record, is still great, but the marginal slip from transcendent to great has allowed the team’s 27th-ranked offense to sink the entire ship.)
Faced with this litany of issues, the biggest thing Bears brass will have to decide over the remainder of the 2019 season is who will take charge of putting this team back together. If it were up to NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace would be a part of that equation.
“I am a believer in what Matt Nagy does,” Simms said recently. “I like his attitude, the way he coaches, the way he handles himself at the podium.
“I am a believer in Ryan Pace,” he continued. “He’s done a lot of great things there. I know we all want to get on him for drafting Mitchell Trubisky. He messed up. He took Trubisky before Mahomes and Watson, we get that. There’s been a lot of teams that made mistakes, you just gotta keep moving on…
“Long story short, I’m still a believer in Pace and Nagy.”
Notably missing from Simms’ summation is Trubisky, which is fair. But as eager as many fans and pundits are to cast the third-year signal-caller aside, there is an argument that fully and completely evaluating Trubisky over the remainder of the season would be more prudent than a mid-season switch.
If the Bears do decide to cut the Trubisky era short, Nagy may have done enough to earn a second chance with a second quarterback — this time, one of his choosing. But the team’s complete and continuous unraveling should only exacerbate the scrutiny of Pace, who — even outside drafting Trubisky — has made mistakes at the top of the draft (see: Kevin White, Adam Shaheen) and made a habit of aggressively parting with valuable draft capital to, overall, little franchise-altering consequence.
There are also the whiffs Pace has accumulated in free agency — from committing relatively big money over multiple years to Mike Glennon before trading up for Trubisky, to bringing in Mike Davis on a multi-year deal that is looking increasingly like a sunk cost, and so on. These are moves that, alone, don't outweigh the good Pace has done (the Khalil Mack trade, signing Allen Robinson, drafting Eddie Goldman and Cody Whitehair, etc.), but in the aggregate, have the potential to put a cap on the team’s ceiling and window to contend.
Whatever direction the Bears decide to move in this offseason, self-reflection and the capacity to act on said reflection will be crucial. Without that, a cycle of mediocrity is inevitable.