It’s a crazy time to be a Chicago Bears fan. There’s turmoil at Halas Hall with an expected coaching change coming (literally any day now), an injured rookie first-round quarterback, and a defense that can’t close out games. But that doesn’t mean all things are bad in Chicago. In fact, there are plenty of reasons Bears fans should be thankful this holiday season.
Let’s begin with the obvious: Justin Fields. For the first time in the franchise’s century-long history, the Bears have a quarterback. Sure, the critics will point to the box score or stat sheet to suggest Fields hasn’t lived up to the hype so far in his rookie season, but that’s nonsense. Few quarterbacks could find success with the inept play-calling and, at times, brutal offensive line play that Fields has suffered through. Still, Fields has flashed those high-ceiling moments that inspire hope for a very bright future behind center. He is, by far, the most important player on the Bears’ roster and the most talented quarterback the team has ever had. Be thankful for that.
Next, there’s Roquan Smith. I wrote back in September that the Bears’ defense was no longer Khalil Mack’s show; Instead, it’s Smith who’s risen to the most irreplaceable piece on that side of the ball. Smith is currently third in the NFL with 110 tackles and his three sacks are the most among the top four tacklers in the league. He had a remarkable 17 tackles in Chicago’s Week 11 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and proved he is the heart and soul of a defense that’s otherwise been lackluster as of late. Smith is to the defense what Fields is to the offense.
And how about Darnell Mooney? The second-year wideout is proving he’s capable of being the Bears’ go-to guy in the passing game, which is critically important with Allen Robinson likely playing his final games in Chicago. Mooney’s big-play ability is an obvious plus, but he’s tough, too. He breaks arm tackles and is fearless over the middle of the field. He may not have the size of a traditional Alpha on the outside, but he’s beginning to put up numbers like one, including five catches for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens. Mooney is the Bears’ second-highest graded player on offense and projects as a critical piece of Chicago’s rebuilding effort moving forward. He’s a good one.
David Montgomery is a stud, too, isn’t he? He’s a lot of fun to cheer for and he’s continued the tradition of strong running back play in Chicago. He has a long way to go before he can be mentioned alongside Bears greats like Gale Sayers and Walter Payton, but he’s teetering close to that Matt Forte-type of value to Chicago’s offense. There’s no doubt Montgomery has ascended into that next tier of running backs in 2021 and at just 24 years old, he has yet to reach his maximum potential. He’s averaging a career-best 4.5 yards per carry this year.
Believe it or not, Bears fans should also be thankful (in a sick and twisted way) for how the 2021 season has unfolded. The playoffs are out of reach and sweeping changes are coming this offseason. It’s exactly what the Bears need—a new coach, maybe a new general manager, a new culture, and a new playbook. New is good. New is exciting. New spawns hope and anticipation. That newness, combined with Fields, will create a level of enthusiasm for this team that normally isn’t the case for a franchise that’s been stuck at or below .500 for a few seasons.
Whether Chicago wins a bunch of games to finish the season or loses out to end the year, 2021 has been a ‘win.’ It’s been a victory since the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s continued with each pass Fields has attempted in his rookie season, and will march through the calendar’s flip to 2022 when the Bears take a more significant step toward relevancy with the sweeping changes that are on the horizon.