The Chicago Bears aren’t surrounded by optimism these days. A bit of a surprise considering they haven’t had a losing season in three years and have made the playoffs twice. As always, it’s about context. Their last two seasons were 8-8 finishes. The second of which saw them lose six games in a row at one point. Their defense is starting to get old and their starting quarterback, who just isn’t that good, will be a free agent. Yet ownership saw fit to retain Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace as head coach and GM.

It’s a move that still doesn’t make sense. George McCaskey is bringing those two men back without contract extensions but with a clear ultimatum. Win in 2021 or you’re fired. Basically guaranteeing them acting less out of sound mind and more out of desperation. This despite the team having limited resources. A falling NFL salary cap eliminates any sort of meaningful spending money and they sit with just the 20th pick in the 1st round of the draft. Yet they’re supposed to find an upgrade at quarterback, retain Allen Robinson, improve the offensive line, and keep the defense together in spite of that?

That will take some borderline black magic to achieve.

Perhaps this is why expectations are lower for the 2021 Bears. ESPN surveyed their top experts in a recent column with a simple question. Out of all the teams that made the playoffs this past year, which one is the most likely to miss them this coming year. Out of eight analysts, four of them selected the Bears. A bad omen for Nagy and Pace.

That paints a pretty sobering picture. Most agree that if the Bears fail to make the playoffs, there is no way they’ll be able to justify keeping the GM and head coach another season. It’s likely both men will be gone and Chicago could well chart a course towards rebuilding.

For Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace? All hinges on the QB decision

Neither would be in this current mess if Pace had made the correct decision back in 2017. Sadly Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson are carving out superstar careers elsewhere. The Trubisky pick will go down as probably the single-biggest missed opportunity in franchise history when it’s all said and done. It is exceedingly rare for a regime to recover from that magnitude of a blunder.

The next two and a half months could well decide whether Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace will be one of the very few who buck that trend or merely become its latest victims. Thus far their efforts have remained a complete mystery. All that is known to this point is they made a considerable push to get in on the Matthew Stafford sweepstakes before he went to L.A. Then they were heavily connected to Carson Wentz in Philadelphia but that proved to be overblown.

Nothing substantial has happened yet. 

Do the Bears have a plan or are they scrambling about praying for a miracle? The silence out of Halas Hall is deafening. Everybody knows the stakes. If they can land a viable quarterback, this team is good enough to be a playoff contender. If they can’t? There is just no way to think the defense can carry an underachieving offense for another season.