Bad Chicago Bears Defense Is No Surprise


Everybody take a breath.

One of the worst parts of watching the NFL – other than frighteningly severe injuries, commercials, excessive number of penalties and Roger Goodell – is the extreme reaction that eclipses all reasonable approaches to the game and our favorite teams. We all do it, because these games have transcended simple sports and have become cataclysmic events that make us feel sick after a loss or euphoric after a win.

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Everything is amplified because of our fascination with the game and our teams. We read articles and blogs about our team when we’re at work (you know you do it), we skip family functions to watch games, we think about ways we’d fix our team, imagining a scenario where, as if the real NFL was a video game, that adding a few players and coaches will fix all the team’s problems.

Lost in that shuffle is reality, and the ability to understand and accept – grudgingly, kicking your feet and only with the caveat that the incompetence won’t last – that sometimes your team simply isn’t that good.

Such is the case for the 2015 Chicago Bears defense.

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones (89) makes a touchdown catch over Chicago Bears defensive back Alan Ball (24) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

After only two games – which is an incredibly small sample size that really shouldn’t be used for any kind of legitimate evaluation – the Bears defense seems horrendous and again worst in the league. They’re last in points allowed and last in point differential. They can’t cover, they can’t rush the passer, they have no depth and they’re still struggling to stop the run. Their big new player, Pernell McPhee, doesn’t have a sack. Their number one cornerback, Kyle Fuller, was benched in Week 2 after being burnt repeatedly.

Sep 20, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach John Fox walks on the side line during the first quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

They just gave up 48 points to the Arizona Cardinals, the most they’ve ever allowed at home. Their new Head Coach John Fox and Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio haven’t had much of a visible impact yet, and they’re both supposed to be two of the best defensive minds in the game. The defensive unit has started to suffer injuries that have chipped away at the roster, too.

The poor play of the defense in the first two games has been frustrating. Somehow, people took hope from the Green Bay game, where all the defense managed to do was not get embarrassed. The Cardinals game … that was brutal and embarrassing, and hearing the wisecracks on TV about how bad the Bears will get beatdown this weekend in Seattle is dispiriting.

But we shouldn’t be surprised by all of this. Any of it, really. The paragraph below is a quick breakdown of everything we knew about the Bears defense BEFORE the regular season even started:

Three of their four starting linebackers are learning new positions. Three of the four primary backup linebackers are learning new positions. Of their top five defensive linemen, one is a rookie, two are learning new positions, one is a virtual unknown and the other one, their best defensive lineman, is suspended, aging and injury prone. One of their starting cornerbacks is a mediocre journeyman. The other is a second-year player who had about three good games as a rookie and then took a nosedive the rest of the season. Their starting free safety is a rookie. Their starting strong safety is 32 and showing his age.

Oh, yeah: They’re all learning a new scheme, too.

Sep 20, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown (13) dives for a touchdown as Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos (38) defends during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Knowing all of that, what did we think this season, in terms of the defense, was going to be? That Foxy and Fangio were going to use some magical concoction to turn that collection of players into a good, or at least average, unit? No. That doesn’t happen in high school or college football, let alone a professional league. Plagued by rotten drafts and some shaky free agent signings over the past couple of years, the Bears defense is exactly who we thought they were.

Of course there are going to be games – probably many of them – where they get embarrassed. I don’t like it. I hate it, in fact, and will continue to do so the rest of the season if their play continues like this, which I expect will be the case. I’ll have the same expletive-filled response after most games that I’m sure all of you will, too.

But I think we, as Bears fans, need to take a step back and realize the deeper picture here. And I think most of the time – probably before and after, but not on, game day, we’re able to do so, because we’ve got one of the smartest football fanbases in the league.

Sep 20, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for a touchdown with Chicago Bears cornerback Terrance Mitchell (20) pursuing during the second half at Soldier Field. Arizona won 48-23. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

This season’s not about how the defense — as an overall unit — plays. This season is about the coaching staff – and fans, I suppose – finding out if Kyle Fuller and Terrance Mitchell can cover, if Eddie Goldman is our future nose tackle and Adrian Amos our future free safety, if Christian Jones and Shea McClellin should start at inside linebacker next year, if Ego Ferguson and Willie Sutton can play line in a 3-4 defense.

The coaching staff, the fans, the media and us bloggers can’t answer all those questions after two games. Finding those answers out takes time, and in that time, expect there to be a few bumps along the way. Maybe more than a few.

A rebuild, which is what the Bears are going through whether they want to admit it or not, takes years. Look at what the Cubs did. They almost reached the World Series in 2008, failed to reach the playoffs in 2009 and then were lousy from 2010 to 2014, as they rebuilt the roster through the draft, traded away some veterans and let others leave, and saved money for future free agency splurges. They’re stacked with young players now and have almost clinched a playoff spot, and appear destined to be relevant for the next 10 years.

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Jared Allen (69) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears – specifically for this post, their defense – will get to that point, as well. It won’t be this year, and it probably won’t be next year, either. But this season of evaluation is necessary to tell the coaches, and show the fans, exactly how far behind the rest of the league our Bears are. To compare it to the Cubs’ rebuild, I would say the Bears are in the equivalent of 2010 or 2011. That means it’s going to take a few years of drafting wisely, shedding bad veteran contracts (Jared Allen, Willie Young and others) and finding the right fits for the new defensive scheme before the ship is completely upright.

That means patience, Bears fans. It is a lot to ask when you love a sports team the way we love the Bears. Buckle down, grit your teeth and hold the faith for a better day. It will come. Just, unfortunately, a few years down the road.

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