Last season, the Chicago Bears were one of the NFL's great success stories. Picked by our model to win just 6.6 games, with only a 19 percent chance of capturing the team's seven-year playoffs, Chicago ended instead under second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and first-year Head Coach Matt Nagy. The Bears went 12-4, won the NFC North and were only a few inches away from beating the defending champions in the playoffs. Nagy won Coach of the Year awards, and as he entered 2019, Chicago seemed to be based on building on his breakout – thanks to a strong defense and further potential development from Trubisky.
But things haven't really gone according to plan … because, let's face it, they almost never do in the windy city. The Bears campaign in 201
We would ask how it got to this point, except that things always seem to come to this point for the Bears as they seek a return trip to the playoffs. Going back to the 1990s, Chicago has repeatedly tried – and failed – to build on its breakout seasons, for the most part leaving fans bitterly disappointed instead. And with the exception of a miracle, this season looks like it won't be any different.
Let's rewind a little. The year was 1994, and the Bears were two seasons away from a run of seven playoffs in eight years, including a legendary championship in 1985. But they had gone 12-20 in 1992 and & # 39; 93, during which time the team officially moved away from both the head coach – longtime head coach Mike Ditka – and quarterback – Jim Harbaugh, who had shown flashes of talent but played miserably in 1993. Led by second-year head coach Dave Wannstedt and a combination of Steve Walsh and Erik Kramer down the middle, Chicago turned things around with a 9-7 regular season & # 39; 94 and added a one-way playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings before being sent by eventual champion San Francisco 49ers.
Prepared to make a season back the following year with Kramer – who actually had a huge season in 1995 – started full time, Chicago started 6-2. But the Bears eventually missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker after going 3-5 during the second half of the season, undone by special teams and (of all) defense. The franchise would not recover for the rest of the decade.
The playoff drought was snapped in 2001, when a QB nobody thought much about – Jim Miller, who threw fewer passes for the 2000 Bears than the immortal Cade McNown or Shane Matthews – led a team that nobody thought much about for a season that no one looked coming. This year's Bears defense went from the 20th in points allowed to the first, a feat that was made even more incredible by the team's intermediate rankings in more yardage-based metrics. The Cinderella story ended at home against the Eagles in the playoffs, but at least some observers saw another playoff on the cards for 2002.
Instead, the defense returned to 25th points allowed, Miller didn't last the season when the QB started, and Chicago crashed back to ground with a 4-12 record. The Bears would disappear from the playoffs one more season after that, during which time the team burned through as a result of starting QBs that included Kordell Stewart, Craig Krenzel, Chris Chandler, Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman
The last two names are where the story takes a turn, but as part of the exception to the overall rule.
2005 The Bears were another of the underdog Chicago teams with an untested QB (Orton, standing in for the injured Grossman) and a second-year head coach (Lovie Smith), who was little expected except for some hint of defensive promise. They started the year 1-3, because Orton played poorly – but then, out of nowhere, they laughed at an eight-game winning streak as part of a stretch of 10 wins in the season's last 12 games. The team once again led the league in scoring defense – even it will be more honest than 2001 – and it continued to win, although Orton continued to struggle until Grossman returned in Week 16. Despite going 10-5 as Chicago's starter during the regular season Orton was benched for the playoffs in favor of Grossman. But at home in the playoffs against the Carolina Panthers, Grossman didn't fare much better than Orton had, and the Bears' season ended with a 29-21 loss.
Looking forward to 2006, it certainly seemed like history was repeating itself a few years earlier. But the & # 39; 06 Bears actually returned to the playoffs – and even went as far as the Super Bowl before bumping Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on a rainy super Sunday in Miami. Although Grossman was a mediocre passer at best, Brian Urlacher-led defense repeated their top-five performance in points allowed and helped the Bears make a rare return for the season before the wheels began to fall in 2007.
It was the start of a new three-year playoff for the club, but in 2010, the Bears still had Smith as an experienced coach to join QB Jay Cutler – acquired from Denver for Orton and Elections, and who had something to prove after a terrible debut season in Chicago. Cutler's own 2010 was up and down, but the Bears defense was again fantastic, allowing the fourth-few points in the NFL, and the team finished 11-5. In the playoffs, the Chicago Seattle Seahawks beat before losing at home to the Green Bay Packers in an NFC championship game that Cutler left early with a knee injury.
Would the Bears return to the playoffs in 2011? Of course, they would not. Chicago started 7-3 before Cutler was injured again, and the team went 1-5 down the stretch with a combination of Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown to replace Cutler in the middle. The Bears recovered to go 10-6 in 2012 but also became one of the rare NFL teams in history to win double-digit games and miss the postseason. After that, they would never collect anything better than an 8-8 record during the rest of the Cutler era and eventually miss the playoffs in seven straight seasons from 2011 to 2017.
All this leads us to 2019, when Chicago had its fifth chance since the mid-1990s to build on an unexpected playoff with another bid after the season. And probably for the fourth time – 2006 is the only exception – the team will not follow up the breakthrough. The return rate for playoffs since the NFL expanded to its current format in 1990 is 52 percent, and only 42 percent for teams coming off the season the year before. So naturally you would expect this phenomenon to happen several times to some law. But the Bears have done it so often, they have practically become the poster franchise for the playoffs, dropping out of the field next season.
The 2019 sharing team happens to share common issues with Chicago's past stumbles. For example, the defense is not as dominant as it was last season – which seems to be a common defect for these one-off offers in the playoffs. (Is the legacy of the defense & # 39; Bears loom so large over the franchise that it has to constantly try to build up in that team's image?) There is a lot of research showing that defensive quality, although extremely important to the team's success, also is extremely varied from season to season, even with talents like Khalil Mack on your side. So when your quantum leap from obscurity into the playoffs is always dependent on dominating D, it's no surprise to see a preference for re-sealing in subsequent seasons.
But an interesting difference this year, compared to the previously failed playoffs, is at quarterback. Most of the other seasons involved Chicago starting with a low rated QB that won despite poor passing. Often these QBs would be improved (or replaced by a better alternative) in the follow-up bid, but that is not enough to overcome the defensive regression. However, Trubisky entered the 2019 season with an above average QB Elo rating, which could only be said about quarterbacks in 19 Bears seasons since 1950 – and only three QBs since 1998 (including Trubisky).
This seemed to be an argument in Chicago's favor of returning to the post season: that the 25-year-old's ongoing development would provide insurance in the event of a defensive image. But instead, Trubisky's overwhelming play (he ranks 27th in QB Elo by the 34 current and / or primary starters in the league) has stopped the Bears & # 39; rebuilding process and questioned his long-term future with the team.
We don't know where the bear is going from here. But even if they come back to the season, says next season, they have to prove that it is not a miracle for a year – unlike almost every other Bears playoff game in the last three decades.
Check out our latest NFL Predictions .