Oct 31, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach John Fox (right) talks with Minnesota Vikings wide receiver coach George Stewart before a game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Coming out of their bye week, the Chicago Bears have momentum going their way.
The Chicago Bears’ win against the Minnesota Vikings was their best performance of the year. HC John Fox noted regarding their week 8 win, “we played a complete game. I think probably the most complete game we played out there for 60 minutes. . . . You could kind of see us come together a little bit more as a team. The concept of playing together as a team was a little more evident.”
The Bears’ defensive front 7 dominated the Vikings’ offensive line, generating 5 sacks and consistent pressure on QB Sam Bradford.
Offensively, OC Dowell Loggains had an effective game plan against a formidable Vikings’ defense. The Bears’ offensive line held up, limiting sacks on QB Jay Cutler and opening running lanes for RB Jordan Howard.
Further, the bye week allowed rest for an injured roster. OG Kyle Long, OG Josh Sitton, and RB Ka’Deem Carey each had full practices this week and are expected to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears listed NT Eddie Goldman and WR Eddie Royal as questionable, but it’s possible they’ll see playing time this Sunday.
Looking to the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings are trending downward, as they coming off two and three game losing streaks, respectively.
Can the Bears make a strong showing the second half of the 2016 season? Is a playoff push realistic? Should Bears’ fans get their hopes up?
What’s Best for the Bears?
There are two camps of Bears’ fans. One camp roots for the Bears to make that push. They see the Bears gelling and the schedule enabling a potentially strong showing in the second half of the 2016 season.
The other camp sees this season as a lost one. The more games the Bears win, it will likely not result in a playoff berth, but will result in a lower draft pick. This camp sees more value in tanking the rest of the season to get a better draft pick, with an eye towards drafting the QB of the future.
Both camps want what’s best for the team. What is best for the Bears?
The Bears absolutely need to end the second half of the season on a high note, with upward momentum heading into the offseason.
Aug 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace looks on from the sidelines before the preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
The Bears are in the middle of a complete rebuild. Starting off the season 2-6 didn’t help lend credibility to GM Ryan Pace’s rebuild plan or HC John Fox’s coaching ability. If the Bears tank in the second half, GM Pace and Fox will lose all credibility, and one of them will likely end up being fired.
This will reset the rebuild period, and the Bears will end up directionless, yet again. A high draft pick won’t solve that loss of stability and direction.
Landing Free-Agent Talent
While Pace is continuing to build his team through the draft, there are still holes on the roster that they’ll need to address in free agency.
Ryan Pace has shown the ability to attract high-value free-agent targets. This past offseason, he targeted the Bears’ biggest need at inside linebacker. He signed ILBs Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, the two then best available inside linebackers on the market.
They have been — and are still, currently — making great decisions in order to bring players and the coaching staff and everybody to this organization to build something great here in Chicago.
Pace also signed DE Akiem Hicks from New England, a player who was highly sought after by Patriots’ HC Bill Belichick. Belichick tried to keep Hicks in New England, reportedly calling him the night before Hicks signed with the Bears.
Hicks explained why he chose the Bears over the Patriots. “They have been — and are still, currently — making great decisions in order to bring players and the coaching staff and everybody to this organization to build something great here in Chicago,” Hicks said.
Hicks further noted “I’m a believer. I’ve seen some of the moves that they’ve made and I’ve seen the way that they’ve gone about business and I’m excited to be a part of that, and was excited from afar.”
Pace will only have success targeting roster needs and signing high-value free agents if he can sell that the Bears are an ascending team and are building something special.
If the Bears have a strong second half, he can make a case the Bears are trending upwards and that the first half-season slump was due to ill-timed injuries. He can make this sell regardless of whether the Bears actually make the playoffs.
On the other hand, if the Bears tank the second half of the season, no sought-after free agent will want to come to Chicago. Unless the Bears pay above market, no player will want to join a losing franchise with a hopeless future. If Pace can’t bring in high-value free agents to Chicago, this will severely hinder Pace’s rebuild strategy and timeline.