Ellis: Now that's how you tank an NFL season


CHICAGO (670 The Score) Raise the banner and plan the parade: The Bears are the worst team in football. After 14 losses in 17 games – the last 10 of which came without relent – their incompetence was rewarded in a major way Sunday, with a little help from their friends. The Bears did it. They really tanked, and it really worked. Don’t ever let anyone tell you hard work doesn’t pay off.

“I mean, I think one of the main focuses this year was to build a foundational floor to build up,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said after his team's 29-13 loss to the Vikings in their season finale. “And I think we did that. And that’s a credit to those players in that locker room. They did a really good job.”

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Eberflus is right – throughout this entire season, players consistently did a good job making sure everyone knew where the floor was at all times. Even on a day like Sunday, when the only goal was staying healthy enough to avoid interrupting vacation plans, players rose to the occasion. It was then, as everyone in the maybe-half-full Soldier Field waited for reserve quarterback Tim Boyle’s second-quarter interception to re-enter the atmosphere, that the Bears’ grand image for this season was fully realized. Sometime around the moment when the Bears willingly took a delay-of-game penalty to push them out of scoring range, they reached their final form.

“We’ve got some talented dudes,” said tight end Cole Kmet, who was the only Bears pass-catcher to reach 500 receiving yards this season. “It’s just a matter of putting this work in and getting that cohesion going. This offseason’s going to be big for that, so we’ve really got to take the next step up.”

Now, inevitably, the conversation is going to change. There’s money to spend, cap space to fill and drafts to mock (in every sense of the word). Davante Adams isn’t going to just trade for himself. NFL windows never quite play out the way we expect, and even the most bearish predictions (I’m sorry, I hate puns too) for the 2023 team probably involve more than three wins. If at any point this season you went on a raging tangent about how annoying it is that people are still calling Justin Fields a running back, just wait until they do it next September too. When all the players leave Halas Hall following their season-ending debriefs Monday, they’ll do so with the burden of expectation placed firmly on their shoulders. To steal a line from the band on offensive tackle Braxton Jones’ postgame T-shirt, I guess this is growing up.

“I’m sure upper management is very stoked about (the No. 1 pick,” Jones said. “For me, I had no idea. I’m just out there trying to win the game. Protect the quarterback, protect the runner. I’m not focused on those things. But like I said, I’m sure they’re excited about that.”

In fact, the news was so exciting that it supposedly inspired team owner George McCaskey to start handing out free ice cream bars, which you can never get enough of on a cloudy, 28-degree day. In a way, ice cream in January is a fitting reward – like The Great Tank, it wasn’t originally your idea of a great time, but since the McCaskeys didn’t really give you a choice, you might as well enjoy it. And not unlike The Great Tank, it was probably more digestible for some than others.

“Team-wise, I just really want to try and be a leader,” safety Jaquan Brisker said of his goals for next season. “Try and bring the defense together a little bit more. Hopefully everybody will just be a little more accountable doing their jobs, and really just play in all three phases.”

There will be plenty of time and column inches (a phrase lots of people still use) for conversations about accountability next season. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, let’s just appreciate the Bears’ tank job, which they knocked out of the park. Maybe that’s what Kmet’s touchdown celebration was referencing this entire time.

Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Daniel Bartel/USA Today Sports