The 2016 Bears were a team that finished with the worst 16-game record – 3-13 – of any Chicago entry since the NFL in 1978 added two games to the 14 it had played since 1961. It didn’t win a road game.
But it was a team that didn’t implode, which was part of the reason behind multiple players being emphatic that 2017 will be dramatically different from the carnage of the season that wrapped up Sunday with the 36-10 rout at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.
“I definitely believe in my team,” said rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd. “I definitely believe we’re gonna shock the world next year so tune in and be ready.”
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery declared in the post-game locker room Sunday that the Bears would reach the Super Bowl, never mind the 3-13 pit in which this team found itself.
“I’m with him,” Floyd said. “If you say, ‘Super Bowl,’ let’s go, let’s get it. That’s all I have to say about it.”
The problem is, why would anyone believe that, even inside the locker room that stayed close? Injuries and performance issues resulted in the Bears rarely starting the same lineup two consecutive weeks on either side of the football all, and none of the lineup combinations produced winning.
Why would even “playoffs” be a topic of conversation for a team that has only been to them once in the past decade?
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“I just read Jordan Howard’s No. 2 in the league in rushing,” said injured guard Kyle Long. “And you have to run the ball to win in the NFL, so I’d say, Jordan Howard is kinda the hare out there in front of us leading the pack there, which you can do from a personal standpoint, because you can see he wills himself to get four or five extra yards every time he’s got the ball.
“I just think we have such… . I’ve heard the ‘young’ thing for so long, and I’m so tired of all the talk. Talking is not gonna get us anything, but we got young guys who can play. So I’m looking forward to seeing that. I’m looking forward to getting healthy so I can stop talking and start playing. That’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Jeffery was blunt about whether he meant his “Super Bowl” declaration:
But that would mean reaching the levels of teams like the New England Patriots, with whom the Bears practiced three days before their preseason game last August.
“New England?” Jeffery scoffed. “We’re the Chicago Bears. We’re just like them; the only difference is just a few plays here and there. We went to New England and practiced; they know. If you were there and watched the practices, they know. Unfortunately, in New England they’re doing a great job. I give them all the credit. Coach Belichick’s is doing a great job and Tom Brady is a hell of a quarterback.
“2017 is going to be a different Chicago Bears team. This year coming is going to be a different team.”