LAKE FOREST – There were no outward signs of the disappointment and scrutiny that has surrounded the Bears’ 3-5 first half of the season Friday around Halas Hall.
The locker room was loose, players were having fun, and nary a long face could be found.
In our daily visit with coach Matt Nagy, he acknowledged the current four-game losing streak and talked about the critical need to get a win and lighten his team’s load, but insisted his and his staff’s and players’ approaches are still all about being positive, being themselves and most of all having fun.
“We still want to make sure guys are having fun, because if you’re not, then that can take away from the ability of trying to get a win on game day. So you want to make sure that you’re still having fun.”
“With that said, you still also have to understand that where we’re at, at 3-5, we can only go to 4-5. ... Obviously, you can go to 3-6, but we want to focus on getting that win.
“But winning would make everybody feel a lot better, and that’s the start.”
Fair enough, but it doesn’t help at all in trying to figure out whether the Bears will beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
If these , than in one outing against the Vikings, had even vaguely resembled last year’s team, they’d be an easy pick.
But while physically they look the same, we have no idea what’s going on inside of their heads right now, and we have to assume that, whatever is, it is at the root of their seriously reduced production.
I asked Nagy if he felt last year’s success and all the offseason hype around the 100th season celebration could be part of the problem.
“It could have been a part of it, but I hope it’s not, just because we tried to prep for that going into the year.
“Whenever you have success, when it’s a team sport, you have to worry about your teammates, as well, and the more of those type of players that you have, right, wrong or indifferent, then the more chances that you have of having that affect your year.
“I can’t answer for everybody, but I do feel like our team in general, overall, knew going into this year was going to be different and not to let last year affect us.”
OK, what else could be wrong?
Mitch Trubisky isn’t producing and doesn’t appear to be a happy camper, so I asked Nagy if his quarterback is being encouraged to “be you” much like Nagy tells himself to be, or if he’s playing with restrictions and/or a leash on.
“No. ... We want everybody to be able to let their personalities show.
“When you have things happen the way that they have with us, sometimes as a younger player, younger person, younger coach, whoever you are, sometimes you can let that affect you.
“That’s what I think has been for all of us really the biggest challenge, is making sure that when all this stuff goes down, you realize that no matter what we’re doing, if you win, it hides a lot of stuff that we might be nitpicking at.
“So, no, I want everybody to be themselves.”
Good answer, but it still left me in search of what it is that is keeping these Bears from playing to the level they did last year, so I asked Khalil Mack if he’s noticed anything different about the attitude or approach of his teammates or himself so far this year.
“One thing about consistency, man, especially from this group, is it’s inevitable. They come out every day, practice hard. We’re going to see results soon.”
Mack and Nagy should know better than I do, but it has seemed clear to me since May that there is a “different vibe” around this year’s group than last year’s, just a little more expecting to win, and maybe not the same urgency to.
Perhaps, however, I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just the bounce of the ball and a handful of plays. I sure hope I’m wrong, because a loss Sunday could change the trajectory of this season from disappointing to disastrous, and nobody wants that.