Bears' New Challenge: Sustain Success

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (670 The Score) -- With parity a constant in each NFL season, the biggest challenge for a team often isn't getting to the top but staying there.

That's a task Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy have accepted on behalf of an organization that enjoyed a worst-to-first turnaround in the NFC North in 2018, when they finished with a 12-4 record and division crown.

"We’re 0-0 now," Nagy said at the NFL Combine on Wednesday.

The Bears enter this offseason in a desirable position. They have a promising young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky playing on his rookie contract, a star pass rusher in Khalil Mack in his prime, eight players coming off Pro Bowl selections and a strong culture in place. 

Now, how do they sustain it? How does Nagy and his coaching staff get more out of their team? How do Pace and the front office add to it? 

Bears brass arrived at the NFL Combine this week with limited salary cap space and only five draft picks, the first of which is in the third round at No. 87 overall. With few resources, the Bears will be tested as they look to develop and fortify their roster. 

"It's refreshing to look at the depth chart and not be overwhelmed by all the needs everywhere," Pace said. "Now we can pinpoint and tweak and fine-tune. 

"We're a young team with a lot of guys under contract. That's exciting. That's exciting to be going into Year 2 with this offense and having (new defensive coordinator Chuck) Pagano come in and add his flavor. 

"There's going to be natural growth and progression. We got to make sure that happens. We got the right character on our team and the right staff to make that happen."

Some of that character has already revealed itself this offseason, as a three-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long on Tuesday agreed to restructure his contract to open up more cap room. In January, veteran tackle Bobby Massie agreed to a team-friendly deal that allowed the Bears to keep continuity on the offensive line.

Pace and the Bears could restructure another contract before the NFL's legal tampering period begins March 11. With championship aspirations becoming a reality, players may be more willing to sacrifice their own financial gain for the benefit of this team becoming even stronger. That could potentially lead to the Bears re-signing both safety Adrian Amos and nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan, a possibility Pace suggested is now in play.

The Bears have "built this foundation," as Nagy put it. So there will also be a greater appeal to the Bears calling in free agency -- something money alone can't buy.

"Now, I feel like we are an attractive destination for a variety of reasons," Pace said. "It's the coaching staff, it's the youth of our roster, it's the city of Chicago, it's a brand new facility. We're definitely a team on the rise. I think a lot of players would want to be part of it."

Pace and Nagy understand that for all the success the Bears enjoyed in 2018, there's still plenty of room for improvement. The offense made strides in its first season with Nagy but left plenty more to be desired. That burden falls on the 24-year-old Trubisky, who will be tasked with elevating the offense to the level of his team's elite defense.

The Bears begin their offseason program in April, hold their first OTAs in May and conduct veteran mini-camp in June before reporting to training camp in July. Before that, Pace and his scouts must go to work on free agency and the draft.

During his four-plus years in Chicago, Pace has a strong track record in the middle rounds of the draft, finding Pro Bowl talent in the form of safety Eddie Jackson, running back Tarik Cohen or running back Jordan Howard. He has also identified some bargain free agent like defensive lineman Akiem Hicks.

"We can still accomplish our offseason goals," Pace said. "We have a plan in action for that.

"Hey, this is where we make our hay as scouts and evaluators. We're up for the challenge."

Once this offseason does come to a close and the Bears' hay is in their barn, they will start a new season as the team to beat in the NFC North. The goal now for the Bears, as their plan for this offseason becomes action, is to ensure they do indeed stay on top.

"Now we got to maintain it," Nagy said. "The hunger that was in our players' guts, what was in their eyes when we talked individually, you can’t make that up. They’re ready to get back at it.

"That’s going to be my biggest challenge as the head coach, is to make sure there’s no complacency and our guys realize that we’re now the hunted."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​