The Bears 2010 year is done. Active Bear fans are still milling around, visiting websites, and storing final thoughts on the season before the long spring and summer. While I was getting my fill of news before the long drought, I saw a lot of vitriol against Cutler and the Bears from angry Bears fans. I know its a little after the fact, but I felt like sharing my thoughts on the matter while it’s on my mind.
Dear Angry Chicago Sports Fans,
Just because we didn’t make it to the Superbowl this year doesn’t mean our team is a complete turd. Yep, no need to burn your Bears gear in protest or make effigies of Jay Cutler. I understand how you feel this last game validates your view of Cutler as a wimpish interception machine. I understand that some of you have had some sort of knee injury in the past and that qualifies you to make informed medical assessments of how that injury would impact an NFL quarterback. I’m sure if you were in his place, you could scramble out of the pocket, plant your bad leg and throw accurate passes. Not to mention bolting for first downs and colliding with man monsters like Clay Matthews, who can smell weakness and gains strength from the tears of his enemies. After all, you would be well protected by your offensive line of kindergartners who possess the stopping power of a piece of tissue paper. But even if you believe all that was possible and feel like we were destined to win the Superbowl this year, try to take a step back and remember that place of disappointment that we came from at the start of our season.
We had just lost 4 out of 4 preseason games. ESPN power rankings placed us in the bottom 5 teams in the NFL. We played our first game and eked out a win due to a bizarre technicality that left top NFL sages scratching their heads. No one thought we’d be better than 7-9, and that was a hopeful estimate. We essentially had the same group of guys that disappointed us last year, plus Julius Peppers who some analysts thought to be on the decline. Morale was low. Then, two games later, we saw the Bears showing flashes of brilliance on offense and defense, beating the Cowboys and the Packers. Suddenly we were 3-0, and a wave of unbridled optimism flooded the city of Chicago. Our team wasn’t just good, it was going to be unstoppable. Pack your bags for the Superbowl. As a result, when the first signs of that dream crashing around our ears started to show itself, many Chicagoans took it rather hard.
In retrospect, we didn’t pay enough attention to what our losses over the year were telling us. The depantsing we experienced while playing the Giants and Patriots showed us our team was clearly outmatched by some of the better teams in the NFL. Our losses to the Seahawks and the Redskins showed us our team was incapable of consistency. We even struggled to beat some teams that we should have handled easily like the Lions and the Bills. It was hard to know what caliber of play we could expect from week to week. Would it be the team that beat the Packers, or would it be the team that lost to the Redskins?
Our path was a golden path. Someone sprinkled pixie dust on our team this year. It must have taken some serious sorcery to get a season changing touchdown overturned, a 3rd stringer QB inserted in a key game against Miami, and magical armor that protected our starters all year long. Not to mention all the bad voodoo sent to our division rivals. Green Bay seemed to have enough injuries for both our teams. Aaron Rodgers got concussed twice. They lost to the Lions, allowing a situation where a tie between our two teams would end up with us winning the division (someone must have been stabbing the Aaron Rodgers voodoo doll especially hard that day). Also, the Vikings’ carriage turned back into a pumpkin and they finished 6-10, tracking well to replace the Lions in the NFC North basement next year.
And there’s more weirdness. Due to a series of events involving some losses by other teams, we ended up getting the bye week, ensuring our entry a round deeper in the playoffs and some time to rest up. Furthermore, due to an even weirder series of events, the Seahawks, a team that went 7-9 in the regular season, entered the playoffs and BEAT THE FORMER SUPERBOWL CHAMPIONS. The Packers(as a wildcard) would then go on to beat the Eagles in the wildcard round, resulting in us being the team to play the losing-est team to ever enter the playoffs. After handily beating the Seahawks we found ourselves at the NFC championship game, a breath away from the Superbowl, playing a team who we had beat once in the regular season rather than the #1 seed in the NFC. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
Yes we lost. The magic wasn’t strong enough. Maybe we could have won, and maybe we could have beat the Steelers next week and won the Superbowl. But we already got pretty damn lucky this year, and our team is not a dominant team. It’s a good team, perhaps with the potential to be a great team in a year or two, but we’re not there yet. We had a strong year, and they beat our expectations. In the championship game we kept it close, and made some Packers fans sweat toward the end. Our defense played hard and impressively, holding an electric Green Bay offense for the second half. Offensively, Forte did a great job running the ball, and Hanie did a great job leading the team when Cutler went down.
Speaking of Jay Cutler..yeah he stunk that game. But he’s a given us a lot of success this year, and should have proven by now that he’s made of tough stuff. Remember, this is a quarterback who frequently runs for first downs, collides with linebackers, and dives for touchdowns. No sliding for Jay Cutler. He’s set an NFL record for most sacks in a half of football, being hit 9 times before exiting the game with a concussion. I know he pouts and can be petulant at times, but don’t doubt for a second that he isn’t in it to win it. If anything, he’s too emotionally involved on the field when he’s doing poorly, and tries to force the ball into dangerous places or make huge plays where simple ones would suffice. With some more time improving his fundamentals under a single offensive scheme, I think he could be great. He also happens to be the only Bears quarterback who’s thrown for 20 touchdowns and over 3000 yards in back to back seasons. Just some food for thought.
We did much better this year than I could have hoped. We beat teams that I never expected to beat in the Eagles, Jets, and Packers. We beat the Vikings twice. We got to give the Cowboys their first real taste of disappointment this year. We even managed to knock Brett Favre out of his last game in the NFL! Now we have some draft picks, so hopefully we can target our weaknesses in the off-season and come back stronger. Anyway, the Packers have played through a lot of hell to get where they are right now and I’ll be rooting for them in the Superbowl this year. Hopefully next year or the year after that, it’ll be our turn.