A year ago at this time, it looked like things were getting better for the Chicago Bears. The team’s 6-10 record in 2015 was just a one-game improvement from Marc Trestman’s 5-11 mark the year before, but head coach John Fox and his staff brought a level of basic professional competence the prior administration lacked.
Unfortunately for Fox, his team didn’t take another step forward in Year 2, as the Bears finished 3-13. The 2016 season was an injury filled one where 19 players finished the season on injured reserve, and the players who were healthy enough to play produced at inconsistent levels. The Bears are clearly in a rebuild phase, but one long-time NFL expert doesn’t think the team is that far from being good.
Peter King, the editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB, believes the Bears could shock fans, and the rest of the NFL, by being a good team in 2017. Of course it comes with the following caveat: King ranks the Bears – along with the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Rams – among the five worst teams in the league.
HOWEVER, he names the Bears as the team in the group that could provide a pleasant surprise in 2017.
“I think the Bears are an interesting team because if either Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky plays at a top-15 level, they’re not a bad team,” King said in this SI.com video. “At times, they played very well. They have a good coaching staff. So I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bears turned it around.”
Turnaround seasons were Fox’s specialty in previous stops with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. He took over a 1-15 Panthers team that improved to 7-9 in his first season and 11-5 (with a Super Bowl appearance) in the second season. The Broncos were 4-12 the year before Fox joined Denver, but the team improved to 8-8 in his first season – a year in which the team won the AFC West and a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with Tim Tebow as quarterback.
*If* any team grouped in the bottom five is going to pull a shocker, you wouldn’t have to stretch too far to pick the Bears. The team projects to have as many as eight new starters after dipping into free agency to continue its roster turnover under GM Ryan Pace, and with a return to health, there are a number of talented pieces there.
A massive improvement from 3-13 isn’t a probable scenario, but it’s not 100 percent out of the question. And if everything goes right, the 2017 Bears could be the latest successful Fox turnaround project.