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The NFL regular season has ended. Teams are starting their annual fire sales on coaches and coordinators. Some of the early casualties include Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick, Chargers' head coach Brandon Staley, Washington Commanders' head coach Ron Rivera, Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and others. That's on top of mid-season firings of Raiders' head coach Josh McDaniels and Carolina Panthers' head coach Frank Reich. During the second half of the season, speculation about which coaches would get fired was accompanied by fans arguing over whether these bad teams were "tanking" the season (or should tank the season) to improve their draft picks. The Bears were one of the most talked-about teams in this regard.

I don't pretend to know what goes on behind closed doors in NFL front offices, and no NFL front office has ever (to my knowledge) actually come out and said "we're deliberately tanking this season", so whether or not a team might be tanking is pure speculation. But if you ask me, no professional sports team should ever deliberately tank a season! And this goes double for any team that is operating with a 1st or 2nd year coaching staff or general manager, as is the case for the 2022 and 2023 Chicago Bears.

Many fans speculated (and even wanted) that the Bears would tank in 2022. And after a 1-5 start to the 2023 season, some fans even began to think the Bears were tanking this season too. Reddit was awash with posts insisting that the Bears' should tank in order to get the top 2 picks in the 2024 NFL draft (the Bears own the Panther's first round pick, in addition to their own pick). This would allow the Bears to cut Justin Fields and draft Caleb Williams, as well as get some other top-tier elite talent.

Caleb Williams
Photo credit: John McGillen, Photography LLC.
Many fans expect the Bears to cut or trade Justin Fields in order to draft Caleb Williams.

Personally, I am willing to go on the record as saying that I do not agree with this popular consensus that the Bears should draft Caleb Williams. I am still on the fence about Justin Fields' potential, and would like to see him stay with the team. I would prefer that the Bears trade down to get more draft capital, and focus on taking an elite receiver (Marvin Harrison Jr.), offensive lineman, pass rusher, and/or cornerback. But my feelings on the Bears' specific 2024 strategy is neither here nor there. The main point is that regardless of the Bears' plans with Justin Fields (or any teams' plans with any roster), no team should ever deliberately tank a season.

The thing about tanking is that "tanking" is practically indistinguishable from actually sucking.

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The first 2 weeks of the NFL season have not gone the way that Bears fans hoped and expected it would. The Bears have looked like an absolute dumpster fire on both offense and defense, despite a number of seemingly brilliant roster upgrades by General Manager Ryan Pace over the offseason.

Not only are the Bears looking bad, but the Green Bay Packers (without Aaron Rodgers) are looking like they could still be the team to beat in the division. 2023 was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Packers, and the Lions' chance to shine for once. And maybe the Bears could have potentially played spoiler or snuck into a wild card playoff spot. But no, it looks like the NFC North will come down to Detroit and Green Bay, while the Bears will probably go back to hibernating in the basement.

Many pundits are quick to blame Justin Fields, and to insist that he will likely be replaced by the end of the season. But I'm not so sure that Fields is the problem. Yes, Fields does have plenty of blame. He is looking like he's slow to process the defenses, and he is flat-out ignoring open targets down the field. Those are problems that are almost entirely on Justin Fields.

But I don't think that Matt Eberflus' coaching and Luke Getsy's play design are doing Fields any favors. In fact, the play design and play selection seem to be actively making Justin Fields' job harder than it needs to be.

I am horribly confused and frustrated by the play designs that Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy are creating.

I felt confused by a lot of the Bears' offensive play calls when I was watching the live games. But the live action is so fast, and the replays don't always show what I need to see. So thankfully, J.T. O'Sullivan has done full breakdowns of both of the Bears' first 2 games, which really helped to reassure me that yes, these play designs are as bad as they looked to me in live action. In fact, they might actually be worse!

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The performance of the Bears' offense in 2023's preseason has softened a lot of my hope and excitement about the upcoming season. I was hoping for a major turn around, and for the Bears to be playoff contenders in a relatively weak NFC North. But now, I'm not so sure. I doubt we'll see a completely pathetic flop of a season like last year, in which the Bears earned the number 1 overall draft pick. But I now see a winning season as more of a stretch.

Put simply, the Bears' offense showed a lot of explosive promise in its 3 preseason games, but it didn't really show a lot of general competence. Justin Fields went 3 of 3 for 129 yards and 2 TDs in the preseason opener, with TD passes to DJ Moore and Khalil Herbert. But both of those touchdowns (and the vast majority of those yards) came from Moore and Herbert breaking screen passes behind the line, and running halfway across the field for scores. It was all Moore and Herbert; not Fields. All in all, a lot of the rest of the Bears' preseason play showed a lot of the same struggles that we saw last year.

Protection didn't last very long, and Fields had to run on multiple occasions, and also took a few hits. Neither the run game, nor the pass game, looked particularly efficient, and the first team offense saw multiple 3-and-outs. But worst of all, the injury bug has already taken a toll. Both guards, Teven Jenkins and rookie Darnell Wright, missed games with injuries. Jenkins has already shown himself to be injury-prone, and now it looks like Wright might have problems with injuries as well. Both players are being evaluated on a day-by-day or week-to-week basis, so it's possible they will both be ready for the regular season opener in 2 weeks. But even if they are healthy in the opener, how long with that health last?

Dante Pettis, the presumptive punt returner, has also already been placed on injured reserve. So it looks like Velus Jones and/or rookie Tyler Scott will be competing for that job. Jones didn't play much in the preseason due to his own injury, and Scott got plenty of reps at returning punts. He didn't have much of an opportunity to show what he can do in that role, however, since few (if any) of the punts he fielded were returnable. But the important thing is that he held onto the ball. He did have a big kick return in the final preseason game against the Bills, in which a shoe-string trip-up from the kicker was the only thing that kept him out of the endzone. Another sign of potential explosiveness.

DJ Moore TD
Photo credit: Charles REx Arbogast, AP
D.J. Moore and others showed explosive potential in the preseason.
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After the end of the NFL season, I was expecting (and hoping) for the Bears to prioritize taking an offensive tackle or a wide receiver. Those were the 2 weakest spots on the offensive, and the things that would help Justin Fields the most. Defense was also problematic, and I would have been fine with a defensive pick. But I wasn't hoping for any particular defensive pick because the defense was just kind of bad on the whole, and there wasn't really 1 or 2 positions that could single-handedly fix the defense. The defense would need a lot of work in free agency as well.

But then the Bears made some free-agency moves that changed things. The first was trading away the top overall pick to the Panthers in exchange for DJ Moore. That filled the wide receiver need, and Darnell Mooney can go back to a secondary or slot role, where I think he will do much better.

The Bears also traded David Montgomery to the Lions. This left them with an underwhelming backfield of Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, and Darrynton Evans. Herbert could probably be a serviceable starter, but only in a rotational role. I was high on him when he was drafted, but I don't see him being a productive every-down back.

DJ Moore
photo credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
David Montgomery
photo credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images
The Bears acquired receiver DJ Moore from Carolina, and traded David Montgomery to the Lions.

So considering that the defense needs a complete overhaul that couldn't be satisfied with just a single draft pick, and the offseason moves, my personal top two priorities for the Bears heading into the draft were running back and offensive tackle.

Another developmental tackle?

Even though the Bears did take an offensive tackle with their 1st-round pick, I was kind of disappointed by the pick. I was hoping for the Bears to take Peter Skoronski, the offensive tackle from Northwestern. He was the highest-rated offensive lineman in this draft class, the only offensive lineman who was a consensus top-15 pick, and the one who was considered the most "pro-ready" by scouts. And he was still available when the Bears went on the clock with the 10th overall pick

The Bears have been relying a lot on veteran free agents in their offensive tackle positions for years now, and have been repeatedly looking for young players to fill those positions long term. They tried drafting Teven Jenkins to play tackle, but he struggled at that position in his first year, was moved to guard, and has been doing well as a guard. Then they threw Braxton Jones into the fire of offensive tackle and traded for Alex Leatherwood from the Raiders to play the opposite tackle. Jones and Leatherwood were serviceable, but inconsistent. Jenkins, Jones, Leatherwood, and also reserve tackle Larry Borom have all proved to developmental projects.

Darnell Wright
photo credit: Daily Herald
I wanted an offensive tackle, but Darnell Wright was not my preferred pick.

Instead of Skoronski, the Bears picked Darnell Wright from Tennessee. Wright is supposed to be a very good run blocker who will probably play right tackle. I fear that he's going to be more developmental when it comes to pass blocking. Unless the Bears find an elite veteran to fill the left tackle position, that position will be a battle between Braxton Jones, Alex Leatherwood, and Larry Borom. If one of them steps up and shows dramatic improvement from last year, then maybe Justin Fields' blindside will be well-protected. If not, Fields may find himself running for his life a lot in 2023, as he had to do in 2022.

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After the Bears' embarrassing Prime Time loss to the Commanders a few weeks ago, I hopped onto my blog to complain about the team's offensive design philosophy and play-calling, and called for the Bears to either fire their offensive coordinator, or trade Justin Fields in exchange for a better pocket-passing quarterback. I also outlined my opinions for the types of plays that I thought the Bears should be running with Justin Fields.

Now, I admit, I'm not a football coach. I don't think I'm knowledgeable enough about football to actually be a coach -- at least not at anything above the high school or pee wee level. I'm no football genius over here. I would be fully willing to admit that the Bears could probably try what I recommended, and they'd still suck, and it would just prove that I have no clue what I'm talking about.

But starting with the Patriots game the following week, the Bears have been doing almost exactly what I recommended that they do. And it didn't make the offense incrementally better; it made the offense considerably better. The Bears came out in that Patriots game, and almost right from the start, they were running designed bootleg and rollout passes, read options, designed quarterback runs, and play action. They've also been incorporating a heavy dose of screen passes to their speedy wide receivers to help make up for their mediocre route-running. Ever since implementing these changes, the offense has looked genuinely good. The Bears have almost doubled their points per game, from 16.7 points per game in the first 6 weeks, to over 31 points per game in the three games since.

Justin Fields rollout vs Patriots
Photo credit: NBC Sports
The Bears have recently started executing an offensive gameplan closer to what I expected from the team.

If the Bears' coaches had been calling these sorts of plays, and getting this level of execution from the start of the season, they might actually still be in the playoff hunt. This average of over 30 points per game would have been enough to beat every opponent in those first 6 weeks. If the offense were playing like this early in the season, the Bears would definitely have beaten the Commanders, probably would have beaten the Giants, and might have been able to eke out wins against the Packers or Vikings. Instead of being 3-6, being mostly out of playoff contention, and trading away 2 of their 4 best defensive talents in exchange for draft capital, the Bears could potentially be 5-4 and looking to acquire veteran talent to make their own playoff push.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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