Bernstein: Same Characters, Different Feel To Start This Bears Season

A year ago at this time, the Bears were loudly discussing their Super Bowl aspirations.

(670 The Score) So much was so different one year ago, as I write this from my home studio that's also a makeshift office, having not seen my regular workplace in six months. The kid is downstairs at "school," learning sophomore pre-calculus and The Great Gatsby and chemical equations by staring into a MacBook in the dining room. My wife is holding Zoom meetings with clients to plan events scheduled for healthier times to come. The other kid texts from college about her masked and socially distanced first semester.

It's not easy putting ourselves back in pre-pandemic moments in a way that compares to our bleak new normal, but I realized that at this time in 2019, I was using this space to provide something of a locker room pep talk as an open letter to the Bears, urging them to go win the Super Bowl.

It was done in earnest and not unreasonably so, after an offseason spent lamenting a disheartening playoff ouster was followed by outsized attention to placekicking in a way that seemed silly then and downright farcical now. The Bears responded to such exhortation by stumbling to eight wins that felt like four or five, beating up on teams with quarterback problems as they worked through too many of their own.

And now they're pretty much running it back, saying many of the same things about progress and improvement and hoping this time it works. Their stalwart defense will again be wasted if there aren't more points on the scoreboard, and every nominal improvement comes with a new set of questions. But make no mistake -- what's on the line is their investment in a coach and his beautiful offensive mind and the quarterback again selected to implement his vision.

This is the season of Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky -- and whether general manager Ryan Pace saw what he thought he saw in each of them. The former still engenders a degree of trust from many, due to a combination of the capital accrued in his first year on the job, the ability to keep his next team from cracking completely under the pressure of disappointment and underperformance and his generally personable approach. In all, Nagy has done a good enough job of not making unnecessary enemies.

The latter was told by the team he had fallen short of earning his fifth-year option, then was presented with a training camp battle to keep his starting spot after a trade that brought in Nick Foles, once the Super Bowl MVP. Trubisky won it, whatever the competition actually was. Since enough time has now passed to allow for reports of any grumbling from a locker room set on the alternative, it lets us conclude that either Trubisky played as well as coaches reported or Foles was underwhelming despite the assumptions about his readiness to pick things right up.

Truth is that Trubisky has always earned hosannas for his practice play, and it just hasn't translated to the moments that actually count. The Bears have admitted as much and still don't seem able to explain how or why-- and then how to bridge that gap.

But this process is what they know, and now all that they have. There were no exhibitions that let us see a series or two of evidence and not even a scrimmage with another team in front of reporters. The two quarterbacks were weighed and measured with only the bluntest of instruments, even if eventually judged by a new tableau of offensive thinkers.

The other parts around Trubisky are mostly the same too, with only an old and one-dimensional wide receiver added. The Bears' hope extends to betting on both the rejuvenation of a tight end close to the end of a career and a rookie just beginning one. Their primary running back is already hurt, with questionable depth behind.

It's notable that with so much else having been disrupted or recast into unfamiliar form that the Bears have remained much the same. They're still where they were a year ago, and we're the ones left to feel immeasurably farther away.

Dan Bernstein is the host of the Dan Bernstein Show on middays from 9 a.m. until noon on 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.