How long is it going to be?
Sure, surprises can happen in a given football season, where a good bounce here or there flips a couple games, and a 7-9 team suddenly becomes a 9-7 team. But, realistically, what are the Bears looking at right now? And do they have the right grounded perspective for what is to come after a draft that was clearly as much or more about 2018 and beyond as it was about 2017?
Internally, it seems as if the Bears know exactly where they are.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes the Bears are finally admitting to being in a rebuilding state. As if the team’s actions during the draft and free agency didn’t provide enough clues, Biggs highlights a quote from head coach John Fox from after the draft: “I don’t know that we met all our needs. I think that’s impossible when you’re rebuilding like we are. But very pleased with all the players we got.” It’s a far cry from Fox’s bolder offseason stance of the Bears not being as far away from being competitive as previously perceived.
At least now it’s out in the open. And how long will the rebuild realistically take?
Given the nature of player acquisition and the sample size of a season, rebuilding programs in the NFL can be shorter-term than in other sports, but as ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson notes, while you can’t rule out a return to the playoffs in two or three years, you also can’t guarantee it.
Dickerson was posed a question about when fans could start feeling optimistic about a postseason run after last week’s NFL Draft. So much has to go right for the Bears to simply be competitive after a 3-13 season in 2016. Mike Glennon has to prove he is a capable quarterback after an extended stint as Jameis Winston’s backup in Tampa Bay. Fellow free agents Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, and Dion Sims have to help usher in the Glennon era with playmaking ability on the offensive side of the ball, while Prince Amukamara, Quintin Demps, Marcus Cooper, and others have to do the same when on defense. Players like Kyle Long, Kevin White, and Zach Miller have to recover fully from injury and be productive. As for this draft class, Adam Shaheen and Eddie Jackson have to be steady contributors early and often, while Tarik Cohen needs to find a niche early and excel as an undersized running back.
And yet, the most important development for the 2017 season will be whether or not quarterback Mitch Trubisky takes the proper steps in his learning of the quarterback position … which, even if it goes perfectly, will probably not impact the 2017 season at all.
Again: surprises do happen, and it’s not as if the Bears – and their sizable number of potential free agent/trade pieces – will not have plenty of incentive to play well in 2017. But all things considered, you can see why the Bears are far from being a contender.
You just hope that, as we sit here one year from today – perhaps after another draft with a very high pick – things look a whole lot brighter.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.