The Green Bay Packers will finally renew their rivalry with the Chicago Bears on Sunday, such as it is. The Packers have more or less owned this rivalry for most of the 21st century, aside from a couple of blips here and there. And with the Bears sliding into Sunday’s game at 5-5 and facing substantial, ongoing questions at quarterback, there’s little reason to think Sunday’s game will be much different.
To get an idea what the Packers are up against, we turned to Jeff Berckes of Windy City Gridiron for a look at the Bears’ 2020 season so far. While it’s not what they envisioned, maybe there are some overlooked aspects to the Bears’ offense?
Acme Packing Company: It’s been a little bit of a rough month for the Bears offense, who have managed to break 20 points in a game just once over Chicago’s last four games. What ails the Bears?
Jeff Berckes: Honestly, Jon, it has been a tough year. Starting with an off-season that felt disjointed at best, desperate at worst, the last month of losses was more akin to the football gods finally catching up to us just when we thought we might get away with it. Forced now to roll the boulder up the hill, Bears fans can only now steal a few moments of hope for what the future holds.
The problem, same as it ever was, is the offense, and any offense starts with QB and play-caller. We knew the Bears didn’t have the former but another year of head-scratching moments and regression from Matt Nagy prove they also lack the latter. To be honest, I like Matt Nagy as the HC. He seemed to really have the leadership part down. But, as we gain more and more information on his ability to game plan and call plays, it’s pretty clear that he’s not the answer as not only is he not improving, he seems to be getting worse. In this day and age, getting a good play caller to work under an offensive-minded HC probably isn’t going to happen, which means the Bears need to seriously consider their options after the season.
On the QB front, the Bears whiffed on acquiring Teddy Bridgewater and instead gave up capital for Nick Foles who, in his sixth NFL stop, hardly represents a good gamble. He does not appear to enjoy taking shots behind a replacement-level offensive line that fell apart when LG James Daniels landed on IR. At one point, the Bears trotted out their former 6th round pick LT (who, admittedly, I think is a decent player) and a collection of cast-offs, late rounders, UDFAs, and former defensive linemen to play in front of him. And, get this, they couldn’t block it up. Shocker.
Nothing is going to change until the off-season and, given the potential reduction in salary cap, 2021 is already looking like a scary proposition. The Bears defense is as good as they come, so you can’t just overlook this team on the schedule, but the offense is a non-factor.
APC: Allen Robinson has been something of a bright spot for the Bears offense, but there have been some rumblings that all is not well in his camp amid an impasse over a contract extension. What’s your read on his situation?
Jeff: “Something of a bright spot” is a weird way to say “the only good player on offense,” but yeah, I think it’s clear that General Manager Ryan Pace has done a phenomenal job of screwing up a good thing. Robinson was one of my favorite receivers before he hit FA and I generally believe he has the chance to be the best WR in Bears history. Unfortunately, Pace has put a lot of debt on the credit card and now might not be able to afford Robinson’s contract demands.
Robinson has a shot of setting every major WR record for the Bears, which admittedly is a low bar. Nevertheless, given how this season has unfolded and Pace’s unwillingness to sign him to an extension before the year, I believe it will take a new GM to get a contract signed to allow him to set those marks. As much as this pains me to say, it might be best for his legacy if he leaves and chooses his next team based on the QB.
APC: Packers fans lived through two disappointing years from Jimmy Graham only to see him end up with the Bears. What’s your review of the Jimmy Graham experience through ten games?
Jeff: The Jimmy Graham signing was the easiest to hate on in the off-season. After laughing at GB for signing him a couple of years ago, I had a visceral reaction to the Bears inking him to a 2-year, $16M deal. He can be cut next year for $3M in dead money but it was such a big contract for a player that was clearly past it. Simply put, it was a desperate signing.
Having said that, he has put the ball in the end zone five times, equaling the number of scores in green and yellow. He’s just basically worthless between the twenties as his routes are soft with rounded edges like an old baseball card. Ideally, the Bears would let him sit for the sake of the development of younger players and bring him in down in the red zone the one or two times a game the Bears sniff that part of the field.
After a day off on Thursday for the holiday, come back on Friday for part two of our Q&A, in which we address the Bears’ defense.