Bernstein: I Still Want To Watch The Bears

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(670 The Score) In trying to figure out why I remain irrationally interested in consuming what can only be described as two relatively meaningless regular-season Bears games, I concluded that it's because at least part of my brain thinks they're going to be good next year.

That has to be it, right?

This year has been the correction that was so easy to predict -- and not merely in hindsight. The dubious record of similar out-of-nowhere playoff participants couldn't be ignored even as the hundred-year hype was revving up over the summer, with plenty of reminders of those other teams that crashed back to the blob of mediocrity due to some combination of the tougher schedule, the weight of expectations and a lack of good fortune.

All those boxes check for this Bears team, as injuries took a much greater toll and the spate of takeaways that buoyed their offense in 2018 proved unrepeatable. And the Bears admitted that they didn't respond well to being cast as front-runners.

But I'm still watching, regardless, and underpinning that is a sense that once the bad taste of this 2019 disappointment is flushed out, there can be reasonable expectation of a return to contention. The defense is good and will be good, having weathered the absences of its best interior lineman and both starting inside linebackers. The Bears will go hunting around for some pieces in free agency, but the core of that unit is more than solid and proven effective with Chuck Pagano in charge. And they still have Khalil Mack.

While there's much less certainty on Matt Nagy's offense, we know for sure that the coach and quarterback will be here even if there's a more competitive backup in place at the position. The truth is that Mitchell Trubisky has played somewhat better over the last few weeks, and it's fair to wonder what the Bears' current fortunes would be had he begun this correction earlier enough in the season to end up on the right side of some of their close losses. He needs to be better and still could be, even if he ends up being more of a "win with" quarterback than a consistent "win because of" one. And Nagy needs to improve as well, becoming a better in-game strategist who can apply a well-considered game plan while also retaining the flexibility to adapt to the conditions that actually present themselves. A young head coach is allowed to improve at what he does as he learns from setbacks.

The Bears need to overhaul their running game, from play design to when and how they're called against what defenses to any of the personnel responsible for blocking it or carrying the ball. It has to be better. If it is, then adding a viable tight end might have the multiplicative effect that it can in this kind of system.

Make no mistake that next year is it for this regime, the last chance for Trubisky, Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace to earn our continued confidence as well as that of those above them in the Bears administration. But that fact doesn't preclude the other plainly in front of us, that they also have every chance to right the ship, especially if some of the variables out of their control once again break their way.

I'm working with the intention of holding the Bears to playoff expectations in 2020, and that means these games against the Chiefs and Vikings still can have meaning in advancing that objective.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.