Despite Missing Playoffs, Chicago Bears 2015 Season Filled with Positives


It was a fun ride.

Sure, I was overly optimistic although I never truly believed the 2015 Chicago Bears were a playoff team. Optimism or not, any playoff aspirations for this team are over. Now when you see Fox or NBC throw up the NFC playoff picture, you’ll see the Bears listed as in the hunt, because mathematically they are still alive, but it’s such an infinitesimal percentage it’s not even worth considering.

When Robbie Gould’s 50-yard field goal attempt sailed wide on Sunday, so ended the Bears season. Sure, there are three more games to go, but the team is playing out the string and preparing for 2016. What’s remarkable is that if Gould had kicked the Bears to a victory against the San Francisco 49ers and had the Bears won yesterday’s game in overtime the Bears would be controlling their own destiny for the final playoff spot. Of all the holes that this team has, it’s hard to imagine that the one position that had zero question marks is in fact the one that cost the Bears any shot at the playoffs.

But I should take a step back. I don’t blame Gould for the Bears missing the playoffs. I don’t blame John Fox or his coordinators, I don’t blame Ryan Pace, I don’t blame Jay Cutler and I certainly don’t blame any of the other 52 players on the Bears roster. I blame Phil Emery and I blame Marc Trestman.

Rewind back 365 days and the Bears actually had the exact same record last year as they do this year, but these two teams couldn’t be more opposite. The 2014 Bears were a lost squad heading into the abyss. They had no direction, no leadership, and truthfully, no hope.

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2015 has been a new year and it’s been a rebuilding one. Part of me expected the Bears overall record to worsen this season, it was obvious that Pace wanted to churn a lot of the roster and he’s flipped almost half of the roster in less than a year. Pace was not trying to build a 2015 playoff team, he was rebuilding for the future. He wanted to load this team with young talent and begin putting together a roster than was going to compete for the NFC North crown every year and fight for Super Bowls. The Bears have been trying to put a band aid on a gaping wound for two decades and Pace was finally the man that wanted to stitch it up properly.

I knew this was a rebuild this year, but I was eager for the season, and excited to watch the team develop, but then something happened- John Fox had this team competing, and they weren’t rolling over for anyone. Despite facing teams with more talent each week, the Bears were in almost every game with less than 2 minutes to play. Jay Cutler willed this team to some victories and suddenly that unrealistic excitement began to build.

When the Bears beat the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving, I caught the fever. I knew this team wasn’t really talented enough to make a run, but I had plenty of confidence in Fox and his staff and with a manageable December schedule, I filled with hope. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to do it, but hey, I’m a fan. But as December unfolded the truth became clear- this team just isn’t ready.

Nov 26, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) makes a catch against Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) during the second half for a NFL game on Thanksgiving at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not something I didn’t know before; it’s something I knew all along, but I had managed to bury that realism underneath a pile of opponent schedules and tiebreaking scenarios. But once I pushed all that hope aside, reality was staring me right back in the face. It took me a few moments to accept that reality, but once I did, there wasn’t any sadness or depression, there was hope.

There was hope because in the last 25 years, I have never believed in a Bears front office and coaching staff more than I believe in this one. I think Ryan Pace has a great eye for talent, and I think Pace and Fox know how to put together a tremendous coaching staff. I’m confident that as each year passes, the Bears will have more talent than the previous year, I’m confident that Fox and his staff will have the Bears competing in every game. I’m confident that this franchise is building a winner. I’m confident in the Chicago Bears.

It’s going to take awhile, and that’s something I needed to remind myself Sunday afternoon. 2016 may not even be the Bears breakout year, it may not be until 2017, but it is coming. For those who don’t know me, I’m not usually this optimistic, I’m rather pessimistic- especially when it comes to the Bears. But I believe in this regime. I’ve seen far more positives this year than in any season I can remember. I like how this group competes, I like how the locker room behaves under John Fox, and I like the plan that Pace has put into motion.

So despite another season where the Bears have missed the playoffs, I don’t find myself disappointed at all. I find myself filled with hope, and that’s a great place to be for any Bears fan.