The window has lowered again.
With oddsmakers pinning the Chicago Bears as having just a two percent chance of making the playoffs, defensive superstars and team centerpieces Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs creep a little closer to ending their careers void of an NFL title.
This Bears team has been in “win now” mode since April 2, 2009—the day Jerry Angelo dealt a starting-caliber quarterback and a handful of high draft picks, including two first-rounders, for Jay Cutler.
And while that trade landed the Bears their first upper echelon passer in decades—a label that's been verified more so by the Bears' dreadful offense in the absence of Cutler than by his improved play this season—it also mortgaged a chunk of their future for the “now.”
That “now” soon will come to an end.
At the start of the 2012-13 season, Urlacher will be 34, Peppers, 32, Briggs, 31 and Charles Tillman, 31.
Math, and the cold, hard truth of human deterioration, say those players—who represent the defense's, and perhaps team's, centerpieces—likely have just two more seasons of optimal play together.
Sure, the Bears offense has shown promise with Cutler at the helm and Matt Forte toting the rock, and has even shown flashes of being able to take over a game, but are you ready to trust a Bears offense?
For decades, the Bears have won with defense. That's not going to change, at least not before Urlacher and company conclude their careers.
Let's be clear: It's not an impossibility that these Bears can get to the promised land, but it is an improbability.
Among the retirement chatter are several missteps over the past few seasons, including last week's stunning allegations that Sam Hurd arranged a massive drug deal the day before Angelo signed the wide receiver to a three-year contract.
If Angelo is around, you can bet it's going to be another big bucks, gotta-win-now offseason.
Angelo's made his mistakes, but he's no fool—he knows the window is closing.
Maybe Angelo will even listen to the masses—fans, analysts, Jay Cutler—and obtain a top flight wide receiver.
Think Vincent Jackson, whose likely headed to free agency after back-to-back franchise tags. Or perhaps another Denver castaway, Brandon Marshall, won't be in the plans for Miami's next regime and could be had in a blockbuster deal.
Maybe Angelo will even have the nerve to sack the advice of Mike Tice and net himself some real, live offensive linemen.
Whatever the case, the odds are against the Bears, not only for this season's dying playoff hopes, but for a Super Bowl title next season or the one after that.
Last December, we weren't sure if we'd have football in December 2011.
This year, we know we'll have football next December, but will we even want football in Chicago come next December?