The Chicago Bears Failed Their Offseason No Matter Who Lines Up at Wide Receiver

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 19, 2021

FILE - In this July 26, 2019, file photo, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, right, talks with general manager Ryan Pace during NFL football training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill. The Bears and every other team around the NFL are staring at a season like no other because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Veterans started reporting to camps this week. But instead of jumping right into the grind, they're taking a slower approach  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Nam Huh/Associated Press

If they ever make a documentary about this era's Chicago Bears, it oughta be titled "A Series of Unfortunate Quarterback Decisions." 

Don't get me wrong, the Bears have screwed up a lot outside of the quarterback position. Kevin White, Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith were not good top-10 draft picks, they gave up too much draft capital and real-world money to add Khalil Mack, and ownership should have bailed on the Ryan Pace-Matt Nagy general manager-head coach tandem at least a year ago. 

But Mack, the rest of the defense and top receiver Allen Robinson II have still been so good that the Bears might have been able to succeed in recent years merely by making half-decent decisions regarding the quarterback spot. 

Instead, they erred magnificently by drafting Mitchell Trubisky second overall in 2017 (ahead of both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, in case you hadn't heard), they did so again by acquiring Nick Foles to compete with Trubisky in 2020 and they made it a trifecta by essentially replacing the busted Trubisky with Andy Dalton this week. 

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Now, the Bears are basically out of money and left with two backup-caliber quarterbacks making a combined average of $18 million a year. That's because, by all indications, they didn't have the ammunition to procure superstar Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks, which is understandable.

But acquiring Wilson likely would have crippled the rest of the roster to an even larger extent than the Mack trade did. That's the catch-22 that emerges when the margin for error is rendered impossibly low by poor decisions at quarterback. 

There's no way for the Bears to get out of this, especially now that they've spent money on Dalton and would have to pay extra to make Foles disappear. They won't be good if they trade away half the damn roster for Wilson and wind up with nearly $40 million committed to the quarterback position, and they won't be good if they stick with Dalton and Foles, retain Robinson and sign the free-agent market's top wide receiver, Kenny Golladay. 

That's a possibility now. In fact, Robinson signed his $18 million franchise tag on Thursday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Pace and Nagy met with Golladay on Wednesday. 

Cool. Also a complete waste.

Tony Ding/Associated Press

Dalton isn't significantly better than Foles who wasn't significantly better than Trubisky, and the Bears didn't excel with either Foles or Trubisky throwing to Robinson. And a middle-of-the-pack team in almost every broad metric last season is not just one talented receiver short of becoming a Super Bowl contender. 

Robinson, Golladay and Darnell Mooney would form one of the best receiver trios in the league, but that hardly matters when you lack a franchise quarterback. 

To win these days without a star quarterback, you need to be nearly perfect elsewhere, especially on defense. Even with Mack in his prime, the Chicago D merely ranked eighth in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders in 2020. Now, that unit has lost veterans Roy Robertson-Harris, Brent Urban and top cornerback Kyle Fuller, who became a cap casualty on Thursday. 

Would that have been necessary if they had just stuck with Foles and focused on trying to move up in the draft for Mac Jones or Trey Lance? And how can they afford Golladay but not Fuller? Is Golladay a luxury they can justify adding considering that he faces durability questions, that they were unable to keep Fuller due to cap constraints, and that they already have Robinson? 

Of course not. 

Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

The Bears' only goal this offseason should have been to upgrade at quarterback without breaking the rest of the roster, which undoubtedly requires a delicate approach. Shooting for the stars with Wilson was always going to be problematic, but so was trying to convince themselves that Dalton could be the answer despite the fact he has the league's sixth-lowest qualified passer rating since the start of the 2017 season. 

Under those circumstances, doubling down with Golladay would practically be self-sabotage. 

I wouldn't have faulted the Bears for waiting and putting all of their eggs in the draft basket, and I wouldn't have judged them for giving a shot to Sam Darnold in a trade with the New York Jets that wouldn't likely have severely debilitated them elsewhere. 

I'd take Darnold and/or Mac along with Fuller and no Golladay over Dalton and/or Mac, Golladay and no Fuller any day. Because with the 23-year-old Darnold, you still have potential growth. And with Fuller, you have a better chance of excelling even without a franchise quarterback as a result of sheer defensive dominance. 

Now, Pace and Nagy are just desperate. They know they're toast in Chicago if this season isn't a success, and signing Dalton and moving on from Fuller (potentially to stack the receiving corps) at least looks and feels proactive. But they're spinning their wheels. They're sprinting on a hamster wheel. If they lock up Golladay, they'll be putting premium gas in a Dodge Dart. 

And the worst part is that with every bad move along the way, they're merely prolonging an obvious and at this point inescapable descent to rock bottom.


Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter, @Brad_Gagnon.