Even After Beating The Panthers, The Chicago Bears Remain On Track For The Best Tank Job In Recent NFL History

Ryan Poles Chicago Bears

When things are breaking your way, it’s possible to win even while you’re losing. It’s possible to acknowledge that the 2023 Chicago Bears are more or less a dumpster fire, need help in the worst way, and…yet…they’ve actually made serious progress.

Not sure that GM Ryan Poles and his scouting department are the best in the business when it comes to knowing who to draft. Even less certain is the competence of head coach Matt Eberflus,who’s a bit of a wreck at the podium.

However, when the Bears knocked off the Panthers 16-13 on Thursday night in one of the ugliest games you’ll ever see, they actually helped themselves.

This extends beyond owning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Yes, that’s a big piece to it, and Chicago has a tough decision to make. Do they replace Justin Fields with another franchise quarterback hopeful, or bolster Fields’ supporting cast with a couple blue-chip prospects?

In the most recent draft, the Bears had the top pick and traded it to Carolina. That’s looking like the heist of the century given how awful Bryce Young has looked.

That surplus of draft capital freed up Poles to make a pre-deadline trade for ex-Washington edge rusher Montez Sweat. Who would’ve thought Chicago would be buyers? Not me! Guess what? Sweat paid immediate dividends on Thursday eve.

Why would Poles be so proactive and sacrifice a second-round pick for a guy he couldn’t be 100% certain he’d retain? Because he knows he’s in prime position to help the Bears make a huge leap in 2024 and beyond.

In fact, with Justin Fields expected to return in Week 11 from his thumb injury, it’s a win-win for Chicago as long as he builds on the two full starts he had before getting hurt. In each of his outings against the Broncos and Commanders — who both suddenly look better than they did a few weeks ago — Fields threw four TD passes.

If Fields keeps playing at that level, his trade value will skyrocket. Or, the Bears will know they have a franchise QB. In any event, it’s pretty well-known that offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has been maddeningly inconsistent at best with his scheme, so regardless, Fields’ trade market should be robust in the offseason.

Plus, Poles unearthed a diamond in the rough in undrafted Division II rookie Tyson Bagent, who’s gone 2-2 in four starts under center. Bagent is already proving to be a capable backup.

Another thing to bear in mind: The Bears will enter 2024 with over $82 million in salary cap space. They’ve already gotten ahead of the curve by signing Sweat to a new multi-year contract. Plenty of money to acquire additional talent on the open market. No big money due to a QB.

Chicago’s only wins this year have been over Washington when Fields went nuts, the one-win Panthers and the Josh McDaniels Raiders, whose players lit up victory cigars the first game after he was fired.

As ugly as it’s looked for the Bears oftentimes this season, they are the absolute kings of winning big picture-wise while losing often. Whomever they settle on as their planned long-term QB between Fields and Caleb Williams/Drake Maye, they should probably hire an offensive head coach to stay with the times of the modern NFL.

My take? As long as Fields keeps showing signs of progress, keep him, draft Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. first, and grab another premium player (Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt, or Penn State left tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu, perhaps?) with your other probable top-five pick.

It’d be pretty wild to have Harrison and DJ Moore in the same receiving corps. Then what if Chicago still had someone with Fields’ dual-threat capabilities, and hopefully a better scheme going forward? Sounds like a pretty terrifying combination for opposing defenses to deal with.

The only thing left to do to pull off this masterpiece of a plan? Finish no better than 3-4 down the stretch, help Fields make enough splash plays, and have the defense play poorly enough to justify firing Eberflus. Not to, like, wish ill on him, but come on. This guy doesn’t strike me or most folks as head coaching material, particularly with how offense-skewed the NFL is.

Bears fans may be despairing this year, or taking little solace in knocking off the hapless Panthers in an ugly Thursday night scrum. Fear not, legitimate hope may (finally) be on the way. Just try not to think about the fact that Chicago could’ve hired Mike McDaniel instead of Matt Eberflus.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock