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The Bears' season doesn't really start Sunday
It starts whenever Justin Fields does, and that's just the way Nagy and Pace want it
Real football starts on Thursday night when Patrick Mahomes and the Dallas Cowboys go to Tampa to take on Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions, the Buccaneers.
Wait, what? Oh, that’s Dak Prescott? Just like Aaiden Diggs, I always get those two confused.
The Bears open on Sunday night in front of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth and all of the biggest Hollywood stars like:
And, of course, our very own Mike Pusateri.
And they are all going to see some pretty auspicious debuts. Longtime Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has finally been paroled and gets to play quarterback for a real team and a real coach when he takes the field for the Rams.
Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn will suit up for the first time since being signed as a high priced free agent two offseasons ago. Wait, what? He played in how many games last year? Fifteen? Seriously? For the Chicago Bears? Huh. Can’t say I noticed.
And, the long awaited solution to the Bears gaping hole at quarterback, now that it’s finally been filled with…
Remember when both Ed Sheeran and Aaron Rodgers had cameos during Game of Thrones? Yeah, that was neat. I bring up Rodgers1 for no reason, really.
There’s an extra game this season, which is going to make it really hard for Matt Nagy to post a third straight .500 season. But you know what? It’s not impossible. 8-8-1 still counts.
I don’t know why I do some things to myself, and one of those is that I occasionally listen to Bill Simmons’ podcast. I know, I know.
He has mentioned more than once that he has already wagered on Nagy being the first coach fired this year. But you and I both know that’s not going to happen. I’m not even convinced that The Visor is in danger of getting fired after the season is over, but I know for sure he’s not getting fired during it.
Vags didn’t fire Marc Trestman during the 2014 season, and he had a game where they lost 51-23 to the Patriots, had a bye week to prepare for the Packers and then lost that game 55-14.
Nagy’s not getting fired during the season unless he drops his pants during a halftime speech and sends his best player home during a game.
It’s not to say that Nagy doesn’t deserve to get canned. His career record is a middling 28-22 including playoffs. But remember that his career started 12-4, so he’s actually 16-18 since.
He’s an offensive “mastermind” whose offenses have ranked 21st, 29th and 26th in total yards, have ranked 14th, 32nd and 26th in net yards per pass attempt and 27th, 29th and 21st in yard per rushing attempt. Those rankings wouldn’t be impressive in college football where there are 130 Division I teams, but it’s especially not impressive out of 32 NFL teams.
Nagy conveniently said that it takes “four or five years” for the offensive “system” the Bears run to really find its stride. Supposedly, the Bears run the same offense that Andy Reid runs with the Chiefs, and in his first four seasons in Kansas City his offenses were 21st, 25th, 27th, and 20th in total yardage. Then, in year five they were fifth, and have been first, sixth and first since. Nagy failed to mention that KC has ranked in the top ten in points scored six times in eight years and never lower than 16th. The Bears have ranked ninth (hey!), 29th (eww) and 22nd (oh) under Nagy.
The Bears also don’t have future Hall of Famer Patrick Mahomes. They do, however, have Justin Fields, but he’s going to have to wait his turn behind Dalton for some reason.
The reason, of course, is that until Fields takes the field, the Bears can sell the illusion that things can still get better. You can watch Dalton and the offense struggle and be frustrated by it, but you can also pacify yourself with the idea that when the real QB1 trots into the huddle things will improve, hope will be restored, and the Bears will be relevant, finally.
If you are Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace you want to milk that hope as long as possible. That’s why Dalton is starting Sunday night. They saw the same preseason games we did. They have a locker room full of large men who know that they aren’t starting the best player they have at the sport’s most important position. They are willing to be wrong, and have everybody know it, because for them, delaying the inevitable as long as possible is the goal. And, it’s going to work for them, at least short-term, but honestly, that’s all they’re worried about. Pace wouldn’t continue to shove salary cap problems into future years if he was concerned with the long term. Just yesterday he moved more dead money onto next year’s cap (now up to about $20 million) by restructuring Jimmy Graham’s contract. But hey, whatever it takes to keep Cole Kmet, the outlaw Jesse James and Jesper Horsted’s backup happy.
As embarrassing as the Bears seven decades of quarterback ineptness is, even more embarrassing are two ‘stats.’ The Bears record for career receiving yards by one player is the lowest total of any NFL team.
Johnny Morris, who played from 1958 to 1967 is the Bears all-time leader in receiving yards with 5,059. He played in the 50s! I’m pretty sure the ball was still round! How sad is that?
Jerry Rice had that many yards by the second week of his fifth season in the league. He would have had it in his fourth season, but the 1987 strike cost him four games. It took Jerry 62 games to top what Johnny did in 121 games.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been around for just 27 years (the Bears are on season 103), but their leading all-time receiver, Jimmy Smith has more than twice as many career yards (12,287) than Morris.
The Houston Texans have only been a team since 2002, but Andre Johnson has `13,587 career yards for them.
The Browns all-time leader is Ozzie Newsome ( a tight end) with 7,980. But even though he played in 198 games, it wasn’t longevity that helped him eclipse Morris. Through his first 121 games he had more than 1,000 more yards (6,281) than Johnny.
The team closest to the Bears is the Ravens. They moved from Cleveland in 1996 and reset their rule book, but even they (with their long history of inept passers) have a player—Derrick Mason—with more yards (5,777) than the Bears.
So what can the Bears do about it?
The all-time NFL record for receiving yards in a season is held by newly minted Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson at 1,964 yards in 2012. That’s 122.8 yards per game. Allen Robinson currently has 3,151 yards as a Bear. He doesn’t even need to break Megatron’s record to become the Bears’ all-time leader, he only needs 1,908 yards this year. And, since there are 17 games this season he only needs to average 112 yards per game! That’s a mere ten yards per game less than Calvin did. Piece of cake!
Are we sure the Bears even know the rules to their own sport?
The Bears are also the only team to never have had a 4,000 yard passer. Erik Kramer just missed with 3,838 in the only season he was healthy enough to start every game (1995). Jay Cutler did it for Denver in his final season there before his trade to the Bears and just missed in 2014 (3,812) and 2015 (3,659). He only played in 15 games both years. And he’d have done it in 2014, but he was actually benched for a game (against Detroit) for the great Jimmy Clausen.
Does this really seem like a franchise that would sit their first good QB to start a season for no reason?
If nothing else, you have to admire their consistency.
OK, so I was certain that when Rodgers leaked his disdain for the Packers on draft night that he would never play for them again. It wasn’t just wishful thinking (though man, I wish that had been true), it was from Rodgers’ well-established ability to just cut people out of his life and never look back (like his mom, his dad, his brother, Olivia Munn (who has her own gossipy issues to deal with right now), Hillary Scott, his barber (apparently), and hopefully Miles Teller. Instead, Rodgers worked out a deal that will allow him to leave Green Bay after this season, which is good, but him leaving after last season would have been better.