The Chicago Bears 2022 season is officially over. A season that started with much hope ran out of gas quickly. Once general manager Ryan Poles traded away his two best defensive players in consecutive weeks, it became clear that the Bears were in a full rebuild. Not the ‘Bandaid-on-a-gunshot wound,’ soft rebuild that Bears fans have been used to since the Lovie Smith era, but a complete and hard reset.
That’s when the season truly went downhill in terms of wins. From sitting at 3-4 with an impressive primetime win against Bill Belichick in his stadium to ten straight losses, a franchise record. Justin Fields managed to keep many of these games close, but by the end, he was clearly out of magic and the Bears, reeling from injuries to several key starters, were out of answers.
With that in mind, is there anything to glean from the 2022 season?
For one, it should be obvious to all that Justin Fields is the quarterback of the future. Matt Eberflus called him the ‘franchise quarterback’ after the Week 15 loss to the Eagles. People may not be happy with his passing stats, but his growth is evident. Guys who’ve played quarterback in the NFL, like Trent Dilfer, Kurt Warner, and J.T. O’Sullivan, see it, too. He’s reading defenses, processing faster, and is still laser-accurate. The game has truly slowed down for him.
But as far as the coaching staff, the jury is still out. We saw flashes of brilliance on defense and offense, but there were too many inconsistencies. Granted, Poles did not give his rookie coaches much to work with, and that can’t be ignored. I’d like to see what Alan Williams can do with Will Anderson Jr., Jalen Carter, or Daron Payne.
I’d also like to see what Luke Getsy could draw up when he doesn’t need to consistently run seven-man protection schemes just to give Fields a chance to survive or if he had Quentin Johnston or Jordan Addison running routes in his passing concepts.
Eberflus gets more of a complete grade from me, and it’s a mostly good one. The fight his team has shown this season, giving the best teams in the league everything they could handle, shows that the Bears bought into his culture. Despite some head-scratching decisions, I’m confident in his future here and the kind of team he’s helping to lead.
Before the season began, I thought the Bears had an outside shot at the playoffs. That obviously did not come to fruition, but I don’t think Chicago was as far away as the record shows. Think back to all the close losses decided by one dropped pass, a dumb fumble, or a blown call by an official: Weeks 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 all come to mind. Flip the script on those, and the Bears would’ve been right there in the Wild Card race.
What does that mean for 2023? It means the Chicago Bears are a handful of good players away from the playoffs. They won’t be Super Bowl contenders, but fighting for a playoff spot to the very end (much like the Lions just did) should be the expectation if Poles does his job well this offseason.
And with the first overall pick and over $100 million in cap space, you have to believe he will.