2018 was an amazing year for the Chicago Bears. They are champions of the NFC North. In every single game this season, the Bears were always in the fight. They never lost a game by more than seven points, and they were ALWAYS one play away from coming away with a victory. They have truly changed the culture in one season.
Before this season, Chicago had to endure some absolutely dreadful years. The John Fox tenure made watching the Bears almost a chore. The Trestman years resulted in some awesome offense, but little-to-no defense. While both of these coaches had experienced success elsewhere, they didn’t do much for the Bears. The last time they had a winning season was 2012. Chicago had gone 10-6, but they fired Lovie Smith at the end of the year, paving the way for dreadful performances.
However, general manager Ryan Pace never gave up. After taking over in 2015, he has made some shrewd moves that have transformed the Bears. In four years of drafting for Chicago, Pace has arguably made only one bad move, and that was taking Kevin White in his very first draft. Since then, his first round picks have included Leonard Floyd, Mitchell Trubisky and Roquan Smith. Some of his late round steals have included Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard. His drafts are paving the way for this Bears team.
Finally, Pace made one of the best moves of his tenure last January. He brought in Matt Nagy, a former offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. Since that move, Chicago has been relentless, they’ve been savvy, and, honestly, they’ve been unpredictable. Nagy has shown time and time again that he is going to go for broke, calling trick plays, going for it on 4th down, and just being aggressive. Perhaps the greatest statistic from Nagy’s tenure was this one: In three years under John Fox, the Bears won three division games total. In 11 days, Nagy won three division games. That’s just outstanding.
In addition to bringing on Nagy, Pace ensured the return of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. This was the crucial part of the offseason, as it ensured the Chicago Bears would slowly, but surely, return to their former mantra as “Monsters of the Midway.” At the end of the 2017 season, the Bears were actually in the top ten in total defense, just three years after finishing 30th among NFL teams. As of this season, the Bears finished first in Points against, Interceptions, rush yards per game, passer rating, and defensive touchdowns. They finished third overall in defense this season, behind the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills.
Despite all that he had already accomplished, Pace wasn’t done. In September of 2018, he made a trade that is going to resonate for YEARS to come. Pace acquired Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders for first round selections in 2019 and 2020, a future third round selection and a future sixth round selection. He then signed him to a six-year deal worth $141 million, with $90 million guaranteed.
Most NFL pundits questioned the trade, mostly on Oakland’s side, and this season proved why. In Mack’s very first game, against the Green Bay Packers, he recorded a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, an interception, and a touchdown, in the first half of the game. This was after he had held out of the entire preseason with Oakland in hopes of getting a new contract, so he wasn’t exactly in football playing shape. Mack’s total statistics for this season were eye-popping, as he recorded 47 tackles, 12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one pick-six.
Not lost on this season has been Nagy’s developmental curve with the Bears’ franchise quarterback, Trubisky. After Pace traded up to draft the future Bears quarterback, there was lots of talk that he made the wrong move, and even the New York Times wrote that this would be a “franchise-ruining selection.” Isn’t it great when these people are proven wrong? All Trubisky did this season was complete 66.6% of his passes, throw for over 3,200 yards, 24 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, rush for 421 yards and three touchdowns, and help lead the Chicago Bears to a NFC North division crown.
All of this was accomplished in 2018. The Bears are fun to watch again. The entire culture of the team has shifted, something that usually takes years to accomplish. Chicago used to be a chore to watch, as the predictability of Fox as head coach made the season longer than expected. Nagy on the other hand, has been extremely aggressive all year round, making the right calls, standing by them and leading this team to a 12-4 record.
Now with the playoffs approaching, there’s no telling how far this Bears team can go. They’ll have to contend with some incredibly high-paced offenses to reach the Super Bowl. However, this Bears team is something special. It’s something the city hasn’t seen since 2010. Their defense can stop anybody, as shown time and time again this season. Get ready Bears fans, because the real season is just starting. BEAR DOWN.