It’s a new era of Chicago Bears football – a new head coach and a highly touted quarterback prospect. But how did we get here? Let’s take a moment to look back at what brought us to this pivotal point.
Bears fans would like to forget the Phil Emery-Marc Trestman era of Chicago football. When both were let go three years ago, the Bears were essentially starting over from scratch as they set out to hire both a new general manager and head coach to lead the team.
A rebuild was inevitable. Emery left the Bears with one of the oldest rosters in the NFL. The team turned to an outside consultant, Jim Accorsi, and their search concluded with the hiring of one of the youngest general managers in the NFL, Ryan Pace.
The young Eastern Illinois alum’s first order of business with the Bears was to hire a head coach, and John Fox was the man chosen to lead the rebuild. Fox, the veteran, old-school coach, always seemed like an odd pairing with Pace and many believe there was pressure from inside the organization for the rookie general manager to hire an established head coach.
The Bears under Fox seemed to fit the mold of taking one step forward, two steps back, and the desired improvements were never made apparent. Fox was fired after three underwhelming seasons and Pace was finally given the keys to hire the coach of his choice.
Newly appointed head coach Matt Nagy has now been given the responsibility of taking the Bears to the next level. One major difference between the Bears from the time Fox was hired to now is the amount of young talent on the roster.
The most glaring difference is at quarterback, the most important position in professional sports, where the Bears traded up to draft their franchise signal caller one year ago.
Make no mistake about it, even with a top-10 defensive unit and a Pro Bowl caliber running back, no one in the entire Bears organization is as important as Mitchell Trubisky to the success and future of the team.
The Bears went all-in on the young quarterback out of North Carolina, and he needs to be great for their plan to work.
Trubisky questionably sat the first four games of the season behind starter Mike Glennon, and when the Bears could take no more of Glennon it was Trubisky time for the remaining 12 games.
Playing with backup caliber targets and head-scratching play calling, Trubisky finished the season with a pedestrian 77.5 passer rating. However, according to Pro Football Focus, Trubisky had the highest grade of all rookie quarterbacks last season.
Most modern NFL teams only go as far as their quarterback takes them, but rarely has the fate of the entire franchise been dependent upon one player. Pace attached his fate to the success of Trubisky by trading up to draft him so high. Nagy got the job because of his offensive innovation and quarterback friendly system.
He appears to be on his way to hiring a very quarterback friendly staff as well. In essence, Nagy was brought here to optimally develop Trubisky.
The entire franchise is restructuring itself around the success of their 23-year-old quarterback. If Trubisky lives up to his potential, the Bears appear to be headed toward an unfamiliar path of sustained success for years to come.
There is, of course, an unpleasant possibility for Bears fans.
What if Trubisky doesn’t pan out due to injury or ineffectiveness? What if he follows the underwhelming paths of past first-round quarterbacks taken by the Bears such as Cade McNown or Rex Grossman?
Should this unfortunate outcome play out, it is almost certain that Pace, Nagy, and the rest of the staff will be let go and the Bears would be starting over from scratch … again.
A lot is resting on the shoulders of one player.
Pace, Nagy, and the franchise as a whole are betting the farm on Trubisky’s success in the NFL.
It is a fascinating time for Bears fans and there are plenty of reasons for optimism: a new coaching staff and assuredly a large overhaul of the 53 man roster. The excitement in Chicago is palpable.
But ultimately, the direction of this team, whether that is competing for Super Bowls, or hitting the reset button, will be entirely determined by the level of success of their young quarterback.
Like Cubs manager Joe Maddon used to say about his leadoff hitter, Dexter Fowler, “You go, we go.” That phrase certainly holds true for Trubisky and the Bears for the foreseeable future.