Armed with a new head coach, an up-and-coming quarterback, and some of the longest of odds out there, the Chicago Bears are lining up to be the NFL’s next Cinderella story.
And to really drive the point home, the Bears are even busting out some new threads for the 2018 season.
At this time last year, NFL.com’s Adam Schein pinpointed the Jacksonville Jaguars as a team that was well-equipped to make a storybook run of their own in 2017. And if you’ll recall, the Jaguars were coming off a disappointing 3-13 season, but had a new head coach, a top-10 pick, and had just spent some major coin to make upgrades in free agency. Jacksonville also had questions at quarterback where a former top-5 pick could stand to make major strides in his development. Sound familiar? It should.
Well, as we all know, the Jaguars marched on to a winning season (10-6) and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game, where the Patriots finally slowed them down. They may not have won it all, but that was one heck of year.
A year later, Schein makes a case for Chicago to be Cinderella 2.0 and we couldn’t be more excited about the obvious parallels between the Bears and some some of the NFL’s rags-to-riches stories from 2017.
New coach? Check. Enter Matt Nagy replacing John Fox in what appears to be a carbon copy of Sean McVay replacing Jeff Fisher in Los Angeles. McVay would go on to win the AP’s NFL Coach of the Year award, but before he did that, he was another quarterback-friendly and innovative offensive mind with big dreams of developing a top quarterback prospect in his second year.
New faces via free agency? Check and check. If Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton can be to the Bears’ offense what Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye were to the Jaguars’ defense, then watch out. A year ago at this time, Robinson was just a year removed from a 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown season and viewed as a key to Jacksonville’s passing offense and Gabriel was coming off a career year in an offense where he was used perfectly. Burton is a wild card as the Bears are banking on his upside more than anything.
A top-tier defense? Hang with me here. The Jaguars ranked sixth in total defense last year but 25th in scoring in 2016, but there was an argument to be made for the talent on that side of the ball being more representative of a top-10 group than a bottom-feeder. Now look at the Bears, who were a top-10 defense in both yards and scoring. You could say the Bears’ defense is in a better position than where the Jaguars were a year ago. And I would totally hear you out.
So it’s easy, peazy, lemon-squeezy from here on out, right?
Not so much. More like difficult, difficult, lemon-difficult.
The NFC North is loaded. Minnesota just came of an appearance in the NFC title game and improved at quarterback and on the defensive line. Detroit responded to a late-season collapse that left the team out of the playoffs (despite a 9-7 record) by firing its head coach and hiring a new one. Green Bay probably would have made a postseason push had it not been for Aaron Rodgers’ injury. That team responded by restructuring throughout the organization, including a new general manager, defensive coordinator, and fresh-faced assistants around Mike McCarthy.
But there is no denying what the Bears have: Talent on the rise, a highly-regarded offensive-minded leader from a successful coaching tree, and a defense that was better than what some might remember.
Once Sister Jean and the Loyola Ramblers are done with the magic slipper, they can send it over to Halas Hall.