Trevor Lawrence

Why USA Today predicting a 3-13 record for the 2020 Bears is a good thing

Why USA Today predicting a 3-13 record for the 2020 Bears is a good thing

So, USA Today came out HOT this morning

BearsTwitter cries foul a little too often, but I'll admit that predicting a 3-13 season feels weirdly personal. Do you know how bad you have to be to go 3-13? *Lions fans nod* The 2019 Bears, who finished 8-8, were just as few bounces away from 10-6 as they were 6-10, but 3-13? It's funny, I'm sorry. 

It's also super wrong, to be clear. The Bears blurb opens with "the schedule is brutal," which, well, no. Per Warren Sharp's site, the Bears have the sixth-easiest 2020 schedule, which is currently weighed by Vegas-set win totals: 

When it comes to the efficiency of the defenses they'll play against in 2020, the Bears still have the sixth-easiest schedule; as it stands right now, they won't see an above-average NFL defense in terms of efficiency until Week 5 against Tompa Bay. Four of their first six games come against defenses that were ranked 20th or worse last season. The tough aspect of their schedule, if you want to be picky, is that they'll see a lot of good offenses (fifth-toughest in opponent offensive efficiency). But their defense is still really good, and this is all besides the point. 

If the Bears end up 3-13, though, is it actually the doomsday scenario that has BearsTwitter rage tweeting this morning? TBD. Realistically, it does probably mean the end of either Matt Nagy or Ryan Pace's time in Chicago. Ownership has shown patience in the past and reportedly is still satisfied with the job Pace has done overall, but Pace has gotten his shot at drafting a QB while Nagy hasn't. Maybe they're not both gone, but it's hard to see how they'd both come back. Presuming the Bears went 3-13 because they were in fact that bad and not because they suffered serious injuries at key positions, you don't run that back.  

They're also not going to go 3-13 because of a defense that features multiple All-Pros. NFL windows are short, and the Bears as currently constructed are in the heart of theirs. The offense will look different soon – Mitch Trubisky, Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, and Cordarrelle Patterson are all technically set to come off the books in 2020 – but much of this team's core, especially on the defensive side of the ball, is signed through 2021 or beyond. There's not some systemic rebuild to be had here - at least not yet. 

Plus, in this simulation, the Bears would have anywhere between the second and fourth overall pick in the 2021 Draft. That's good! If a healthy Bears team goes 3-13 with Nick Foles, how is running it back in 2021 any more prudent than seeing what they look like with Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields?

In a recent column about the uncertain nature of NFL rebuilds, The Ringer's Kevin Clark notes that legendary soccer manager Sir Alex Ferguson always felt that his teams had a four-year shelf life – and a study from the Harvard Business Review backed that up. With the way that rookie contracts are constructed, that's more or less the case in the NFL, too. A 3-13 record would be an ugly season, and absolutely no fun for anyone. But long term, is that any worse than say, going 8-8 again? And insisting that they're still one year away? The NFL is full of mediocrity, and sometimes the hardest thing for teams to do is get ahead of that self-realization. In that sense, 3-13 wouldn't be a nightmare, it'd be an opportunity. 

Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields offer Bears quarterback options in 2021 NFL Draft

Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields offer Bears quarterback options in 2021 NFL Draft

The Bears don't have a first-round pick in 2020. And even if they did, they wouldn't spend it on a quarterback. It's too soon to re-invest in a first-round quarterback just four seasons after selecting Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick in 2017.

That won't be the case next year, however.

The Bears played the right strategy this offseason. They invested a fourth-round pick in a veteran quarterback, Nick Foles, who has enough league-wide credibility to challenge Trubisky for the starting job, and has the confidence from his teammates to win games if he ends up QB1. 

But Foles isn't the long-term answer if he becomes the starter this fall. The Bears will be back in the quarterback market in next year's draft if Trubisky fails, and, fortunately, there will be two high-end prospects expected to turn pro in 2021: Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields.

While it's way too early to go through each player's strengths and weaknesses, it's fair to say that both of them possess exciting traits in line with the league's top quarterbacks.

Lawrence, in particular, will be one of the highest (if not the highest) graded players to enter the league in quite some time. Even on the heels of Joe Burrow-mania, Lawrence will be the quarterback front offices view as a can't-miss, generational prospect.

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With that in mind, and if the Bears' 2020 season goes sideways early on, would it be better for Chicago to keep an eye on the 2021 draft order instead of push for meaningless November and December wins?

It's a debate that tears fanbases apart. Bears fans are no exception. Traditionalists will argue that every win builds a positive culture, and losses (even if they result in a better draft pick) should never be the goal. 

Draft purists may beg to differ. Why field a roster that continues to finish at or just above .500 when one really bad season could turn into a decade or longer with a franchise quarterback under center?

There's no right answer. And the scars from the Trubisky era, if it ends in 2020, will run deep. Fans will recall the high grades and praise Trubisky received as a prospect and will fear more of the same if Chicago ends up in striking distance for Lawrence or Fields next April.

The responses to this tweet that I fired out on March 28 gives a sense of the split among Bears fans when it comes to tanking for Lawrence heading into 2020:

Even if you aren't the biggest Trubisky fan, and even if you've been loyal to him but fear the floor is about to drop out from under him this season, the best-case scenario for Chicago is for Trubisky to take a big and significant step in his development in 2020.

A winning season, even if it's just nine or 10 wins, led by Trubisky having the kind of year everyone expected from him last season is the ultimate goal. It will give the Bears confidence that they have their young franchise quarterback already in place and will allow the franchise to focus on stacking winning seasons together.

Otherwise, another reboot led by another highly drafted quarterback will be right around the corner.

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