Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Turnaround For The Bears Has Happened When Least Expected

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This past Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl 56, bringing an end to the 2021 NFL season. The Bengals shocked the league, making it to the Super Bowl after having the worst record two years ago with a 2-14 record. The quick turnaround inspires hope for the Chicago Bears, who have experienced several quick turnarounds of their own in the last 21 seasons.



Several Of Chicago’s Playoff Seasons Have Come Unexpectedly

Following the 2000 season, the Chicago Bears have made the NFL Playoffs six times in the last 21 seasons. Four of those playoff seasons followed seasons in which Chicago finished under .500. Those Bears’ teams made the playoffs in 2001, 2005, 2010, and 2018. In three of those four seasons that came before the playoff season, Chicago finished with five wins.

The most surprising playoff team in Bears’ history was the 2001 team that won 13 games and the NFC Central Division. Under Dick Jauron, Chicago would make an eight-game improvement from the year before as they featured the best scoring defense that season. The 2001 Bears were so good that anytime they scored 13 points or more, they were victorious. What led Chicago’s turnaround in 2001 wasn’t just their strong defense led by linebacker Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown, as the offense featured Offensive Rookie of the Year running back Anthony Thomas, who rushed for 1,183 yards.

Four seasons later, in 2005, Chicago would make the playoffs and win the NFC North Division with 11 wins. Despite having the worst offense in the NFL the year prior and only winning five games, the 2005 Bears’ offense ranked eighth in rushing, which complimented the second-best defense in the league. Urlacher was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, as cornerback Nathan Vasher recorded eight interceptions.

In 2009, the Bears acquired Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler in trade with the Denver Broncos. The acquisition of Cutler led many to believe that Chicago would be a playoff team in 2009. The 2009 Bears would finish below .500 with a 7-9 record, but their turnaround came the following year after the free-agent signing of All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers. In 2010, Chicago would win 11 games and the NFC North Division due to a top-ten defense. The team would make it to the NFC Championship game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.

Following a five-win 2017 season, there wasn’t much excitement heading into the 2018 season for Matt Nagy’s first season with the Bears. That would change a week before the start of the season after general manager Ryan Pace made a blockbuster trade to acquire All-Pro linebacker, Khalil Mack. With Mack, the 2018 Bears’ defense was the best defensive unit in the NFL as they led the league in turnovers and sacks. Chicago won 12 games for the first time since 2001 and won the NFC North Division, leading Nagy to be named NFL Coach of the Year.

The 2022 Chicago Bears Could Make An Unexpected Turnaround As Well

The 2022 season will mark Matt Eberflus’ first season as the Bears head coach, and there is potential for the team to be competitive. Chicago won only six games this past season which led to the firing of both Nagy and Pace. Although the Bears won six games, they were extremely competitive and could have finished above .500. Three of Chicago’s 11 losses were by eight points or less, with two of those losses coming at the very end of regulation. In back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the Bears’ defense allowed a game-winning touchdown or field goal in the final 30-second of both games.

With several key players likely to be a part of the 2022 campaign for the Bears, Eberflus has a good chance of having a successful first season as a head coach. If he can add three wins, the Bears will finish above .500 for the first time since 2018. Furthermore, it will allow Eberflus to win over Chicago fans and prove that he was the correct hire by new general manager Ryan Poles. This will also provide the Bears’ new head coach more time to completely change the defense from a 3-4 to a cover-2 defensive scheme that he is more accustomed to deploying.

Although expectations will be low for the Bears in 2022, there should be optimism given what took place with the Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow made a significant jump in performance following a rookie season cut short by a career-threatening knee injury. Second-year quarterback Justin Fields can make a similar jump as his rookie season was hampered by several injuries.

When it comes to fan expectations, the Bears appear to perform the opposite of what is expected of them. Heading into the 2001, 2005, 2010, and 2018 NFL seasons, there were no big expectations for Chicago to make the playoffs or win a division title. Likewise, When the Bears were expected to make a Super Bowl run in 2007, 2011, and 2019, the team finished without a winning record. Uncertain expectations may be the best thing for Chicago heading into the 2022 season.

 

 

 

 

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