Bears facing tougher opponent than Giants: themselves

Bears facing tougher opponent than Giants: themselves

At this point of a dismal and degenerating 2016 season, who the Bears face on any given week has gradually become less and less relevant. Matchups are noteworthy in every game, but the one matchup that the Bears have not been able to win with even remote consistency has been the one with themselves.

As the famous quotation from vintage comic strip Pogo goes, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The Bears did not lose a week ago because of how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played; they lost because the offense and Jay Cutler lost the football five times, and because the defense could not make a play at the outset of the second half.

They did not lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars because of an ascendant quarterback Blake Bortles; they lost because their defense couldn’t protect a 13-0 fourth-quarter lead and allowed 17 points in the fourth quarter, 10 in the final 2:10. The Bears outgained Philadelphia and Indianapolis and lost to both.

Intriguing matchups are present every week. But at 2-7, of greater interest is how the Bears respond to their situation rather than how they scheme for Odell Beckham Jr., or Eli Manning, or whether Cutler can manage a modicum of ball security against a Giants defense among the NFL’s worst in takeaways (minus-8 turnover ratio).

The Bears have become the story unto themselves, having established what they were capable of in the defeat of the Minnesota Vikings, and establishing what they were capable of in the debacle in Florida.

“It’s all about you handle adversity,” said linebacker Willie Young.

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The degree to which that adversity is self-inflicted as perhaps the true story of 2016, because it was left in doubt last season, with the Bears losing four of their last five after being within an easy field goal of .500, whether the John Fox Bears were any better at handling adversity than were the Marc Trestman Bears.

The level of adversity coming out of Tampa last Sunday is dramatically heightened because the Bears went into that game with expectations — the previous week off, a relatively healthy roster, a third-tier opponent. They came out of it demoralized, at least football-wise.

That the locker room has remained close and not fractured is something of a statement. But it is more a commentary on the kind of character individuals comprising the team than their football character.

The Bears continue to point the thumb rather than fingers.

“They see what I’m telling you; it’s not one guy that takes the sole responsibility for a game,” Fox said. “Everybody’s signature is on it ... Our guys understand that [Tampa Bay is] one game.”

Of course, it isn’t just “one game” or the Bears wouldn’t be 2-7. But the Bears came into 2016 privately believing that they had pieces in place to be a good team. Now those pieces are in pieces and as replacement receivers, offensive linemen, defensive backs and other position subs work for their futures, something of what the Bears’ identity will be going forward is really what is at stake.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio set something of a course when players noticed him already game-planning for the Giants during their return flight from Tampa.

“You have to respect that from your leadership, knowing that we may be in a situation that we don’t want to be in,” said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. “We’d love to be in a different position than this season so far. But we’re not going to back down from our next opponent just because we’re having some tough bumps in the road.”

And the winner is...

The Giants have won four straight, going for five for the first time since 2010. The Bears have put up nothing short of miserable performances in three of their last four outings (Jacksonville, Green Bay, Tampa Bay). The Bears quarterback is having statistically the worst season of his career and is tasked with working behind an offensive line missing its starters at right guard and tackle. The only question this week is how bad.

Giants 27, Bears 13

Matt Nagy listed among coaches on the hot seat in 2020

Matt Nagy listed among coaches on the hot seat in 2020

It's been quite a first two years in Chicago for Bears coach Matt Nagy.

After winning an NFC North title in a 12-win, first season on the job in 2018, Nagy's Bears regressed to a .500 club last season that couldn't get out of its own way on offense, his supposed specialty. With 32 games on his resume and a 20-12 overall record as head coach, the Bears could do a lot worse.

Remember John Fox? Remember Marc Trestman? Never forget.

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But the NFL is a win-now, win-always, just-win league. Nagy didn't do that in 2019, and when combined with the Super Bowl expectations the Bears began the year with, his shortcomings were magnified.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky got worse, the offensive line was a turnstile and the running game didn't exist for most of the year.

All this from Nagy's offense that was hyped as Level 202 during training camp.

The hype is over, and the pressure is on. With pressure comes the proverbial hot seat, and Nagy was recently pegged as one of five coaches who will begin next season with a warm buttock by Bleacher Report. 

Nagy's offense and the play of a costly investment by the name of Mitchell Trubisky dramatically regressed in 2019. The Bears managed just 17.5 points per game while Trubisky produced a mere 17 touchdowns against 10 picks. Little in the way of offensive identity existed while the running game averaged 3.7 yards per carry and one ball-carrier (David Montgomery) surpassed the 300-yard mark.

It doesn't help that the defense went from allowing a league-best 17.7 points per game with 50 sacks in 2018 to 18.6 and 32, respectively, fueling the idea of a regression without defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and putting a further damper on things. 

The Bears, given the investment in Trubisky and pieces like All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack, have higher expectations than most teams. Going into 2020, another 8-8 season probably isn't going to cut it. 

Nagy's job security will come down to his handling of Trubisky. If the former No. 2 overall pick delivers more of the same in 2020, Nagy has to prove he has the courage to make the change under center. Otherwise, he'll come across as nothing more than GM Ryan Pace's pawn in the quarterback game.

It's true the fates of Pace and Nagy fate are likely tied together. As the 2020 season goes, so goes their future with the team. They have to be in lockstep about Trubisky, and self-preservation is a very powerful thing. Don't expect Trubisky's leash to be all that long.   

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Bears meet with FIU quarterback at East-West Shrine Bowl

Bears meet with FIU quarterback at East-West Shrine Bowl

The Bears' quest to flip their quarterback room from a group of underwhelming veterans with little upside behind Mitch Trubisky is already off and running.

According to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, the Bears met with FIU quarterback James Morgan at the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl, the second-largest All-Star game of the NFL draft circuit.

Morgan (6-foot-4, 223) completed 58 percent of his passes last season for 2,560 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. He isn't considered a draftable player at this point in the process, but a strong showing in front of scouts at the Shrine Bowl could change that. 

Morgan had a more productive 2018 campaign when he threw 26 touchdowns to just seven interceptions while completing more than 65 percent of his passes. 

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Bears fans are expecting a bigger move at quarterback than Morgan, but if Chicago adds a veteran in free agency, they're more likely to wait until Day 3 to draft a developmental prospect, if any at all. It's possible Trubisky will be backed up (at least initially) by a player like Andy Dalton to begin the year, while a youngster like Morgan sharpens his skill set on the practice squad.

Next week's Senior Bowl will help put some of the pieces of this puzzle together. Quarterbacks Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) and Jordan Love (Utah State) are both considered late first-round prospects who could easily slide into Round 2. If the Bears spend time with them in Mobile, it could be a strong clue about their second-round plans.

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