The Chicago Bears haven’t had the kind of season their fans hoped for, and if they were making a list and checking it twice this Christmas season, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace wouldn’t qualify for the nice side of the ledger. Instead, they’d be getting a shipment of coal delivered (probably via Amazon prime) to their front doors, along with a flaming bag of… well, you know.
But, look, it is the holidays, and it’s the time of year when we should be optimistic, right? A new year is right around the corner, and whatever happened in 2021 will soon be ancient history. It’s been a rough year in general, so the fact that the Bears will finish the season with double-digit losses and humiliating defeats to Aaron Rodgers (again) seems appropriate. It’s also fair to say 2022 will be better, as long as the Bears’ visions of touchdowns go from dancing in their head to actually producing on the field.
It’s not hard imagining a scenario in which this can actually happen. The Bears finally have their quarterback, Justin Fields, who can be for this team what Rudolph was for Santa during that brutal snowstorm Chicago residents understand all too well. Rudolph was clutch; he delivered. He was more than a reindeer; he was the GOAT. And Fields has a chance to deliver in the same way for a Bears franchise that’s been weathering the quarterback storm for 100 years. Sure, Fields’ rookie season hasn’t been a highlight reel of one big play after another, but he’s left plenty of breadcrumbs (maybe, gingerbread crumbs) to feel really good about the direction he’ll take this team.
So, the quarterback is in place. That’s a big item checked off the wish list. It’s the Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time. But more is needed for the 2022 Bears to be better than 2021’s, and it begins with some playmakers for Fields to have some fun with. There are only so many Kevin McCallister’s who can thrive on their own; Fields needs some running mates.
How about Davante Adams? Maybe Michael Gallup? Fields tossing jump-balls to Mike Williams at Soldier Field would be a wonderful sight. A pass-catching threat at tight end like Mike Geisicki would look pretty good in a Bears uniform, too. Chicago will have the resources available to make one or more of these additions possible, unless, of course, they want to be a Grinch.
A joyful offseason requires more than just big-ticket pass-catchers though. How about a new center? Or, maybe a new guard, which will allow James Daniels or Cody Whitehair to take another swing at the pivot? There will be some intriguing draft prospects along the offensive line in the 2022 NFL Draft, including Boston College’s Zion Johnson, who’d be quite the stocking stuffer in the second round.
For as much as Bears fans will want to focus on building around Fields and the offense this offseason, the defense can’t be ignored. Otherwise, this team runs the risk of dying hard in 2022. Think about a free agency cycle that includes Tyrann Mathieu added to Chicago’s secondary? The Honey Badger would be fun, and while he isn’t having the best season of his career, he’d be a marked upgrade over what the Bears currently have. Cornerback could be a target in the 2022 NFL Draft, too. In fact, the best way for Chicago to add talent to the defense side of the ball will probably be through the draft, as the 2022 free agency market appears stronger on the offensive side of the ball.
Last but not least, there’s the whole head coach and general manager thing, right? Nagy’s been as cuddly as a cactus in 2021, and the three words that best describe Pace’s tenure as general manager are stink, stank, stunk!
Nagy will be launched out of Halas Hall as soon as the final whistle blows this season. The list of potential replacements is a long one: Jim Harbaugh; Byron Leftwich; Brian Daboll; Ryan Day; Kellen Moore; and many others. No matter who Chicago picks as its next head coach, he’ll be an upgrade. It’s almost fail-proof; anyone NOT named Matt Nagy will be viewed as a savior.
As for Pace, well, it’s complicated. He has drafted pretty well but his free-agency signings have been abysmal. And maybe saying he drafts well is giving him too much credit. All he probably wants for Christmas is that 2017 No. 2 pick back, the one he could’ve used on Patrick Mahomes instead of Mitch Trubisky. Boy would things be different right now.
Football, like the holidays, is seasonal. And, like the holidays, it brings joy and sometimes sadness. In a way, that’s the beauty of the sport, isn’t it? The emotions it evokes make fans—like Bears fans—come back for more. And while 2021 isn’t ending the way Chicago would’ve liked, 2022 will kick off with as much optimism and excitement that’s surrounded the Bears in many years.
So when you’re opening presents or breaking bread with family and friends over the next few days, don’t be sad that the Bears’ 2021 season is coming to an end. Instead, look ahead to all the gifts that will soon be arriving at Halas Hall.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all, including Packers fans.