Payton Presser: Bears come up short but their future is bright
The Bears have had their share of heartbreaking losses this season. It started by blowing a 20-point lead to the Packers to open the season, then a 31-28 loss in OT to the Dolphins in the South Florida heat, followed by the Hail Mary catch by Kevin White that came up a yard short of a TD against the Patriots, and yet another OT loss to the Giants. All of those games really hurt. But they have nothing on the feeling I had Sunday night when the clock hit zero. The Bears lost 16-15 to the Eagles on wildcard weekend. The Bears didn’t play their best game. But just like every other game of the season, they had a chance to win. With this being the final Payton Presser of the season, let’s break down some of the good and bad of the 2018-19 season.
I have to say Matt Nagy is the real deal. Nagy made his fair share of mistakes. But for me, that was something to expected from a first-year head coach. One thing is for sure, Nagy has changed the mentality and the culture inside the Bears locker room. This year’s team is light years ahead of the teams we saw in the previous coaching regimes. He accomplished his main goal in year one by fixing the Bears offense. But his biggest challenge was to help Mitchell Trubisky take the next step in his young career and he did that well. Trubisky ended the regular season throwing for 3,223 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 95.4. I’ve always been a Trubisky believer and hope more Bears fans are feeling good about their young signal caller after this season as well. Is he a finished product? Not even close. But he made a lot of improvements in his game and let’s not forget he was learning a whole new offense. The kid has something, and I only see him getting better and better with every snap.
The additions to the offensive side of the roster that Bears GM Ryan Pace made last offseason were huge. Allen Robinson showed this year that he is a big time wideout. Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel were great pick-ups as well. Rookie Anthony Miller showed he can be a play maker right out the box. All those guys were great additions But the team’s offensive MVP in my book was already on the roster. Tarik Cohen really showed this season that he is one of the most dynamic players in all of football. His ability to make plays out of the backfield, flanked out on the numbers, and even on special teams say it all. It’s amazing how much we saw him grow in Nagy’s system. Just a year ago we were talking about how John Fox and his staff didn’t know how to use Cohen. Nagy and his staff figured it out and have great things in-store for number 29. Jordan Howard finished the season 65 yards short of his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. This year his role changed with all the new offensive additions, but he would still show his worth as the season ended. The question that remains is how much longer will he be a Bear? He’s entering the final season of his rookie deal and will want to get paid. Will the Bears open up the checkbook or do they try to move him and get some draft picks back? We will have to wait and see. But one thing I know for sure: Howard is a heck of a football player and showed a lot of people that counted him out that he could fit in Nagy’s new-look offense.
What more can I say about the Bears defense. They were lights-out this season and the backbone of this year’s team. They went from knocking on the door of being a solid defense to taking the NFL by storm this season. With the addition of Khalil Mack, the defense took a leap in the right direction. Mack recorded 47 tackles, 12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, four pass deflections and returned one interception for a touchdown. He really was the spark the defense needed to take them to the next level. The biggest takeaway from his unit was their ability to force turnovers. The unit’s biggest concern last offseason, the secondary, became their strong point. Free safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Kyle Fuller balled out and became AP All-Pros this season. The leap that Jackson took was amazing. For a franchise that has been starving for a safety for years, it has one now in Jackson. Remember when Roquan Smith was holding out during the summer? Yeah, I forgot about it too. Smith seemed to get better every game he played this season. With names like Hicks, Trevathan, Goldman and Floyd, this defense should be right back where they were this season. The biggest question is: Will Vic Fangio be back to hold it all together? His name has been linked to some of the head coaching vacancies. His future will have an impact on what’s next for the Bears defense.
I’m going to be really short on this next takeaway. Cody Parkey might have sealed his fate in a Bear uniform after his season of struggles. After further review, his field goal attempt to win the game for the Bears Sunday was tipped on its way to hitting the goal post twice. His struggles have been documented for all Bears fans to see this season. After he missed 2 PATs and 2 field goals against the Lions earlier in the season, he was never the same. His confidence was shaken. Will he kick again in the NFL? Probably so. But I think his time might be over here in Chicago. Ryan Pace made a lot of great moves last offseason. But the Parkey signing will be attached to his legacy as a dud. No one’s perfect.
The Bears gave us all something we haven’t had in a long time, hope. Matt Nagy along with Ryan Pace have started constructing something special here in Chicago. They worked together to take this organization from worst in the NFC North to the top dogs. Twelve wins wasn’t expected this season. But now the pressure will be on them to get this team back to the post season next year. As I’ve been saying, this season feels like the Cubs back in 2015. You could feel with that team there were big things on the horizon. That’s how I feel about this Bears team. They won’t be hunters next season, they will be the hunted. Even with all the pressures that will build in the offseason, the guys in the Bears locker room won’t let it affect them. All season long I saw a team that knew they belonged because of the work they put into their craft. I feel things will get better. Nagy has infected this organization with an obsession of being great. I saw them feed off of it all season long. Sunday didn’t end as I dreamed. But knowing that we are just getting started leaves me going into the offseason with my head up high. Thank you to all of the Bears fans that have read, retweeted and shared my pressers. I look forward on embarking on a new Bears journey with you next season. #Beardown