Bears in the playoffs? They don't need to be good, just less bad than other teams

Bears in the playoffs? They don't need to be good, just less bad than other teams

Turning the corner — and the page — in their 2016 season, the Bears and fans are entitled to a comprehensive look at their year, specifically whether playoffs are even a discussion point. That is, after all, the first objective of a regular season, arguably one notch above player development, which would probably run concurrent with any playoff-grade stretch, but that’s for another conversation.

The Bears in the playoffs? The obvious answer is not yet. But wait, there’s more.

First of all, as noted here in the past, whether or not the Bears are “good” is a meaningless debate. It doesn’t matter. The NFL is all about grading on a curve. The Bears (no pun intended) are one of those two guys around the campfire when a grizzly barrels in on them. The first guy yells, “Run!” The second guy hollers, “No way! We’re not faster than a bear!”

“I don’t have to be faster than the bear,” the first guy yells over his shoulder. “I just have to be faster than you!”

The Bears don’t have to be good. They just have to be better — or even just less bad — than the other guys.

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And right now the Bears are better, or less bad, than the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, the two teams the Bears have managed to beat in this otherwise abysmal season. The Lions might be more vibrant right now, but the Bears did beat them. Meanwhile, the Vikings have lost three straight; and the Packers have lost three of their last four games, the only win coming against the Bears with Matt Barkley in at quarterback.

Consider: In nine of the past 10 seasons, at least one team and more commonly two or three have reached the playoffs with records of 9-7 or worse. Teams have won divisions with 8-8 records and even 7-8-1 marks. Point being: The bar is not prohibitively high, at least in absolute terms.

“You can spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror driving your car,” coach John Fox said. “If you spend too much time looking back, then you wreck.

“So our focus is in front of us now. A couple of those games go the other way, we’re 4-4 instead of 2-6. It sounds a little better, no doubt. But we can’t change that. We are what we are. Right now we can be 10-6 or 2-14; that’s the reality, math-wise. Hopefully we can move more toward the first one.”

But whether the Bears have even a remote chance to reach 9-7 is clearly the far greater unknown. They would need to win seven of eight, this by a team that has failed to win more than two straight games since the improbable 3-0 start in 2013 under Marc Trestman. Little in the John Fox tenure has suggested an ability to sustain any sort of winning football for more than a couple of games.

The Bears’ remaining schedule is a true mixed bag: a lot of winnable games (which every team is looking at the Bears as), but also five of the eight games coming against teams with .500 or better records — Giants, Lions, Packers, Washington, Vikings. Then again, the Bears have beaten two of those five.

All of which means pretty much nothing, because the only thing that does matter is whether the Bears can take a second step toward respectability as of next Sunday. And if they can’t, then the win over Minnesota was just a spot of comic relief and of interest only as part of any Jay Cutler conversation.

“We’ve got a whole half of a season left,” Fox said. “Like the second half of a game, a lot can happen. There’s not as big a difference sometimes as people on the outside might think. We look at the tape and we evaluate things.

“It’s there for the taking; it’s just a matter of being a little fortunate as far as injury wise and the way the ball bounces, and how we do our job.”

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

USA Today

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace is having what many believe is his best offseason since taking the job in 2015, but after three seasons and only 14 wins, he needs a big year in 2018 to justify the confidence ownership has in him. 

According to a recent breakdown of all 32 general managers, Pace ranks among the worst decision-makers in the league.

No. 23: Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

There’s only so much you can accomplish in one spring. The problem is that Pace let himself accumulate so many needs to begin with. He needs Trubisky and Nagy to springboard a fourth-year turnaround. 

The rankings didn't include six new GM hires, which makes Pace's positioning even more troubling.

Even though the Bears haven't seen wins on the field, Pace has done a solid job through three draft classes and appears to have the right coaching staff in place. His first hire, John Fox, was a calculated move by a rookie general manager to have an experienced football guy to lean on. Now, several offseasons later, the team is starting to take on his identity.

Despite all the talent Pace has added through the draft and the slow but steady transformation of the team's overall culture, it's a win-now business and if his blueprint doesn't start producing more wins than losses, it will be hard to justify more time and patience for his plan to develop.