Games are usually won and lost by players and coaches on the field.
I say usually because there are some instances in which games are won and lost by the decisions that are made in the offseason. And Sunday’s Bears loss to the Saints falls into that category. Because, yes, the Bears lost when Wil Lutz made a gimme field goal in overtime. But in reality, the Bears lost that game when Ryan Pace didn’t properly address the offensive line in the offseason.
We outlined the line’s issues in-season last year, going as far as to suggest bolstering the group before the trade deadline. Before the offseason started, we underscored how fixing a broken offensive line should have been a priority. As free agency opened, we re-imagined how the group could be a strength with the right moves. And on draft weekend, we explored what they should look for in a prospect and which players made sense.
The writing was on the wall, and in our posts. So here’s what the front office did to address the situation:
• Fired Harry Hiestand, hired Juan Castillo. It’s a net neutral move to go from one long-time respected OL Coach to another. But ultimately, it’s a bad look considering that the position coach wasn’t really the problem.
• Signed Germain Ifedi – a tackle by trade – to compete with Rashaad Coward for the vacancy at right guard that was left behind by Kyle Long’s retirement. I love a good camp competition as much as the next guy, but pitting a converted right tackle with notable penalty problems against a converted defensive lineman never seemed ideal.
• Signed Jason Spriggs for depth. I’m not too up-in-arms over a swing tackle who was a second-round pick in 2016 that some believed had first-round traits. But Spriggs tape in Green Bay never provided much to be excited about.
• Drafted two seventh-round linemen. Lachavious Simmons and Arlington Hambright are both projects who never figured into the short term depth plans unless the worst of worst-case scenarios played out. Unfortunately, we’re approaching that quicker than anyone expected.
What makes this situation worse is that Pace hasn’t used the draft to invest in building blocks for the line.
Sure, second-round picks James Daniels and Cody Whitehair look the part. But the other drafts yielded no help. Altogether, we’re looking at six drafts, 39 players selected, and just five offensive linemen. Whitehair and Daniels are quality starters when healthy, but the other picks are borderline unsightly. Neither Tayo Fabuluje (2015) nor Jordan Morgan (2017) made it past the first year of their rookie deals. Meanwhile, Hambright and Simmons are developmental projects who are too raw to contribute right now.
Overall, this is a huge mess — one that has gone largely ignored by the man in charge.