CHICAGO – For any of you who thought you saw something in the Bears coming into this year that most of us couldn’t, the idea they could make a leap from NFL cellar dweller to playoff contention officially was buried Monday night at Soldier Field.
I never bought into that, but I did see a scenario where these Bears could win six or seven or maybe even eight games.
With Kevin White, Cam Meredith, Jerrell Freeman, Willie Young and Quintin Demps already gone for the season, and games coming against Carolina, New Orleans, Philadelphia and two against Detroit that all looked a lot more winnable six weeks ago than they do now, the Bears seem highly unlikely to match the six wins they notched in John Fox’s first season.
But that doesn’t mean the season is over; in fact, the most important part of the season now is at hand.
According to all of my best sources, there are no circumstances under which Ryan Pace’s job is in jeopardy yet. With the mess he inherited, it’s just too soon.
Fox, on the other hand, clearly is in trouble, and he has a ton of work to do over the next 12 weeks if he wants to be back next year for the final season of his contract.
At the top of the to-do list for Fox and his coaching staff is the continued development of Eddie Goldman, Hroniss Grasu, Adrian Amos, Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Kwiatkoski, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Jordan Howard, Adam Shaheen, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen and of course, Mitch Trubisky.
Throw in White, Meredith, Deiondre Hall and Jordan Morgan, who are on injured reserve, if you like, but this group is the kids Pace has drafted to stake his future and the future of the Bears on. How Fox and his staff develop them and whether or not they can be the nucleus of a winning team for next year will be what Pace bases his decision on to keep or fire Fox.
If the bulk of those kids aren’t quality players by the end of next season, Pace will be on the firing line as well.
Obviously, Trubisky will be the main focus, and we didn’t learn anything in the Vikings game we didn’t already know. He has all the athletic traits you want, and he made many of the mistakes you’d expect from a kid as inexperienced as he is.
Grading himself, Trubisky said Wednesday, “I would grade myself average, below-average – I’m pretty hard on myself. [There are] always things you can do better, and it will be [better].”
As to how much he learned Monday night remains to be seen. His first NFL TD pass was one that probably shouldn’t have been thrown, but Trubisky saw it a bit differently.
“If he catches it, it’s the right decision, if he doesn’t catch it and it gets picked off, it’s the wrong decision, simple as that,” he said. “A little luck went into it, but it kind of came back to bite me on the interception coming down.”
Cohen is another really exciting kid very much in need of coaching.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was asked how to get Cohen to start taking what’s given to him instead of freelancing on every play.
“That’s what it is. There’s a fine line because you don’t want to take the best part of him away.
“So we’re just going to keep telling him to trust the play, let the play come to you. Don’t try to create the touchdown every time.”
Every one of the kids Pace has brought in has shown a few flashes, but only Floyd, Howard and Cohen actually have been occasional playmakers so far.
What Fox and company do with these kids now will tell us if that’s the light we’re seeing at the end of the tunnel, or the flash of the Bears having to blow this thing up again.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.