If you’re angry about how misguided Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace’s end-of-season press conference was, just be glad the Bears didn’t broadcast what came next. After Pace and Nagy finished trying to convince everyone that an offense that finished 25th in DVOA was only a few minor tweaks away, the Bears ushered media members into another part of Halas Hall so that Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips could properly explain to everyone how to feel after an 8-8 season.
“We’re confident in Ryan and Matt to do what’s necessary to get us back on track,” McCaskey said. “As Ryan mentioned, the core of this team won the division with a 12-4 record in 2018. And we took a step back in 2019. And we need to figure out why that happened. I don’t think it’s just one reason. We need to look at all of the reasons. And address all of the reasons and get better.”
There has not been a single more effective shield against 2019’s failures than 2018’s success. Where would the Nagy-era Bears be if not for the NFC North Champion hats and t-shirts that you totally see people wearing all the time? The Bears love invoking that 12-win season like Chicagoans love pretending that drinking Malorts is a personality trait. For example: Where does McCaskey stand on GM Ryan Pace, who has now gone 34-46 over six seasons at the helm?
“In 2018, Ryan was executive of the year,” McCaskey said. “That’s part of the evaluation process. But it’s the entirety of the record. It’s not one particular decision.”
Leaning on the crutch of nostalgia is nothing new for the organization. Half the billboards around the city feature a close-up of Brian Urlacher’s new hair, and it certainly feels like being on any Bears team with a winning record is the only qualification the city requires of its athletes-turned-pundits. At Soldier Field, the Bears hammer their history into your skull at every possible moment between Pat O’Donnell’s punts. If the Bears didn’t spend all their energy reminding you that George Halas founded, played and coached, they’d eventually have to answer for the fact that their team’s past is more in line with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers than with the NFL’s historically elite. The difference between the Bears’ one (1) Super Bowl title and the Bucs’ one (1) Super Bowl title is that the Bears had a catchy dance number to go along with it.
So back to 2018, a season that ended with as many playoff wins as their 8-8 follow up did. How can the Bears get back to that?
“We need more consistency from the quarterback position, but we need more consistency across the board,” McCaskey said. “The defense regressed in 2019. We need more takeaways. That happened in 2018 and it didn’t happen for the most part in 2019. The defense needs to score or put the offense on the doorstep — short field, help out the offense, help out the quarterback. That’s squad-wide.”
On the surface, he’s right about that – the defense did regress. In 2018 the Bears had 27 interceptions, which is 9 more than in 2017 (8) and 2019 (10) combined, and scored six touchdowns – which is double the total from ‘17 and ‘19 as well. All a Bears resurgence would take, according to those in the corner offices at Halas Hall, is a defense (that’s already been asked to do too much) finding a way to be historically great at something that’s also historically arbitrary. But otherwise!
McCaskey opened his media scrum with a statement on how, given all the expectations of the Bears’ 100th season, finishing 8-8 was “especially disappointing.” What he forgot to add was that since he took a more visible role with the team in 2011, it’s also becoming especially predictable.