The Chicago Bears have plenty of problems. You can even argue there are two or three problems greater than the inconsistent play of quarterback Nick Foles.
But let’s face it. Nothing is going to change until the Bears solve their decades-long quarterback problem.
Bears fans have seen this story before. So. Many. Times. Even when the Bears were 5-1, the fans knew what was coming – a Super Bowl caliber defense was going to be wasted by a dreadful offense. Three games later, the Bears are 5-4 after Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans that was not nearly as close as the final score indicated.
In today’s NFL, fixing the offense starts with having a quarterback to build around.
For years, the Bears have tried. They’ve tried a lot of things. They’ve drafted quarterbacks, they’ve signed them, they’ve traded for them. They’ve changed everything around the quarterback. New offensive linemen, new receivers, new tight ends. They’ve changed head coaches and they’ve changed general managers. They even changed the chairman a decade ago.
But the quarterback problem remains the same.
To be fair, Nick Foles is not the biggest problem on the offense. The offensive line is atrocious and only getting worse as the depth gets exposed. Matt Nagy’s inability to adapt and scheme to his available personnel is also a disturbing problem. He keeps calling the same plays we've seen repeatedly for three years that simply won't work with this offensive line (i.e. Sunday's intended shovel pass to Allen Robinson that never got started because Robinson was blown up by his own right tackle in the backfield).
But these are recurring problems for a franchise that can’t ever find the quarterback that erases – or at least minimizes -- the other deficiencies. If it’s not the offensive line one year, it’s the receivers in another. Or it’s the offensive coordinator/playcaller. Or it’s the tight ends.
But the quarterback is always somewhere on the list.
Unfortunately, there’s no obvious solution at quarterback to save the 2020 season – especially when the offensive line is this bad. It’s worth taking advantage of Mitchell Trubisky’s mobility if he’s healthy enough to return from a shoulder injury, but that’s not going to turn the Bears into a sudden Super Bowl contender.
At 5-4, the Bears are stuck in the middle. They already lost their shot at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but the best-case scenario is that they still manage to sneak into the playoffs and win a game. Of course, all that will do is hurt their chances of being able to draft other exciting quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft – like North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or BYU’s Zach Wilson.
Taking another swing at a first-round quarterback should be priority No. 1 in the offseason, unless they can pull off a miracle acquisition of Dak Prescott, which seems like a longshot. But another offseason of picking at other team’s castoffs like Sam Darnold or Dwayne Haskins isn’t going to solve the franchise’s biggest problem. Even a Jimmy Garoppolo homecoming sounds better than it really would be. He needs everything around him to be perfect, just like Nick Foles.
Is quarterback the only problem? Obviously not. Nagy’s coordination of the offense is baffling and Ryan Pace’s construction of the offensive line is debilitating. And many will wonder if they should even be the ones put in charge of drafting the next quarterback. At this point, it’s an understandable question, although they probably will get that chance.
As far as 2020 goes, the Bears can’t wait until the offseason to try to fix the offense, but the short-term answers appear extremely limited. This is a team that has been an underdog in eight of nine games this year and could very well be home underdogs to the 3-5 Minnesota Vikings next week on Monday Night Football. Frankly, they should be. The Vikings are getting better while the Bears are getting worse.
If it feels hopeless right now, that’s because the Bears are in a familiar spot – without a quarterback that can cover up deficiencies and win games himself.
In the meantime, another great defense gets wasted. Rinse and repeat.
Nothing changes for the Chicago Bears until they find a quarterback to build around.