Happy Thanksgiving, Bears fans!
Tis the season to give thanks for everything we have. We have been so lucky to root for the greatest NFL franchise. We’ve had some forgetful — or hard to forget depending on who you ask — years recently but things are looking up and the franchise is back atop the NFC North standings.
So many things have gone right over the last year or so. Let’s look back at all the things we should be thankful for as Bears fans.
It might be kind of a cliche to be thankful for our health but it’s a big reason for the Bears’ success this season. Outside of Kyle Long, and to a lesser extent Adam Shaheen, the Bears have been able to avoid the injury bug (*Breaks hand knocking on wood. Writing status: day-to-day).
The Bears have had some of the longest injury reports I can remember over the last few years. Some of their health this season has to be attributed to luck, but a lot of credit needs to go to the Bears coaching, medical and strength and conditioning staff.
Note: Now, I wrote this before the Trubisky news broke. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and after he misses the Detroit game he is back healthy against the Giants.
9. Mike McCarthy
Oh, Mike McCarthy … how the Packers’ organization has kept him around this long is truly a miracle. Yes, he won a Super Bowl for the Packers … eight years ago. However, Aaron Rodgers would have won a Super Bowl that year with my mom as the head coach. Since then he’s wasted the prime of the most talented quarterback in football.
This is Rodgers’ team and when he goes down the Packers are one of the worst teams in football. Could you imagine if the Packers had someone like Matt Nagy? Terrifying.
Here’s hoping for another 12 years in Green Bay, Mike!
8. The Halas-McCaskey Family
Without George Halas, I wouldn’t be writing this article. There would still be a team in Chicago but it would be called something dumb, like the Chicago Lions for example, and we wouldn’t have the rich history of the Bears to desperately cling to even though most of us weren’t alive for it.
Bears ownership has received a lot of flack over the years. And maybe deservedly so. They did make some poor hiring decisions. They’ve also been accused of being cheap.
But the truth is they continually allow the front office to shell out big free agent contracts. The difference now is they hired the right guys to give out those contracts. And that deserves our thanks.
7. The 31 other General Managers
Spoiler: we’ll get to our own guy in a little bit. But I wanted to give a shout out to the 31 other general managers who overlooked some of the Bears’ best players. With the exception of a few, most of the impact players on the team were castoffs or low draft picks.
Any team in the NFL could have had Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, Akiem Hicks, Jordan Howard, Charles Leno, Taylor Gabriel, Danny Trevathan, Adrian Amos and more for either a low draft pick or a reasonable contract offer.
For a team to make a quick turnaround it is essential to hit on these types of players. Kudos to the Bears scouting department for finding the diamonds in the rough.
6. Harry Hiestand
The Bears offensive line is quietly one of the best in the league this season, and Hiestand doesn’t receive nearly the praise he deserves for his work along the offensive line. Charles Leno continues to improve, James Daniels is a rookie forced into starting duty, Cody Whitehair’s snap issues are behind him and Bobby Massie is actually competent now. Yes, the same Massie that had me longing for the days of J’Marcus Webb at times last season has quietly been very good this season.
Even the most talented offenses in football could crumble without a good offensive line. Mitch Trubisky will be the first one to give credit for his success to the offensive line. But it all starts with Hiestand.
5. Mitch Trubisky
The Chicago Bears have a quarterback, folks.
The Bears haven’t had a competent quarterback in my entire life. No offense to Jay Cutler, but Cutler is the girl you date and you think everything is going great but then you meet the girl you’re going to marry and you realize the girl you dated threw too many soul-crushing interceptions and her lack of proper footwork would never allow her to become the quarterback her arm talent suggested she could be …
Sorry, that analogy got away from me a little. Back to Trubisky.
If the Bears had Trubisky instead of Rex Grossman, they probably win that Super Bowl and maybe even more with that defense. He’s still young and still learning, and maybe he is never going to be the best quarterback in the league, but the Bears will have an above average quarterback for the foreseeable future. With this defense, that will be more than enough.
4. Jon Gruden
The Raiders signed Jon Gruden to a 10-year, $100-million contract on January 6, 2018. Nine short months later he made the decision to trade his best player and one of the top defensive players in all of football to the Chicago Bears.
No matter how you slice it this was a move made to satisfy the ego of Gruden. His goal was to send some sort of message about work ethic, or how no one is bigger than the team, or … something? However, the message everyone heard is “I am out of touch with today’s NFL and the game has passed me by.”
But here’s to you, Jon. I hope that late first-round pick was worth it.
3. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks
Of course, the man he traded was none other than Khalil Mack. It sounds impossible but Mack has actually been better than I could have ever imagined. I obviously knew he was a great player, but seeing him up close and personal, week in and week out has been incredibly fun.
He’s made everyone around him better too and no one has benefited more than Akiem Hicks. Hicks was legitimately great the past few seasons, but he’s stepped his game up even more in 2018. The two of them together form one of the best, if not the best, defensive line duos in football.
The Bears have both locked up through 2021, with Mack signed through 2024. We have at least 54 more games of this duo wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
2. Matt Nagy
Each passing game of the Matt Nagy era allows me to forget one game of the Marc Trestman Bears. I barely remember how he addressed the team from the back of the room, or losing to the Packers and Patriots in back-to-back weeks by a total score of 106-37, or how he and Aaron Kromer leaked information to the media to bash Cutler … My god, how was that man a head coach in this league?
Nagy has been a breath of fresh air for this team. His openness with the media has been great and the players love him. Bears players are having fun for the first time in a long time and it starts with Nagy. His work with Trubisky has been fantastic and there is no arguing he was the right man for the job.
Most importantly though the Bears are winning football games again.
1. Ryan Pace
I am most thankful for the man who orchestrated it all. He hired Nagy and Hiestand, he traded for Mack and signed Hicks, he traded up to draft his quarterback in Trubisky, he hit on all those late round picks.
Every general manager has misses, and Pace is no different, but his hits have far outweighed his mistakes. He has put the Bears in a position to win not only this year but for the foreseeable future.
Pace must be in the running to be executive of the year.
The work he has done to turn around this franchise has been stupendous. Some general managers were scared to give up two first-round picks for Mack, and he was torched for trading up for Trubisky. Pace doesn’t let public and media perception impact his decision-making process. If the player he wants is available, he is going to do what it takes to get them.
That is the type of leader for which you can’t help but be thankful.
As Bears fans, we have so much to be thankful for this season. This is just a small list of everything that is going right for the Bears. I am sure I missed something … So, if you have anything else to add, comment below.
Happy Thanksgiving and Bear Down!