Time has a weird way of distorting things.
Hence, it is almost hard to believe that this was a thing that went down in September:
Did We Just Witness the Start of the Justin Fields Era? BEARS 20, Bengals 17https://t.co/0juPqXflYd
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) September 19, 2021
What I am about to share isn’t a prisoner of the moment thought. I took a note, slept on it, woke up, and still felt the same. So here goes nothing: That Bengals thing should give Bears fans hope. Not fake hope, either. In fact, I’d go as far as to suggest that, in their win against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, the Bengals left the Bears a blueprint worth following as they go about their building toward a new competitive window. To be sure, the AFC champs will give people plenty of things to latch onto this offseason.
The idea of the Bengals being a model franchise for teams searching for quick turnarounds is hilarious. But also fun. The NFL is a copycat league, after all, and I certainly have an interest in seeing how Chicago’s new front office can incorporate things Cincinnati did in building a conference champion. I mean, how many of those dudes wearing AFC Championship hats and t-shirts yesterday were on the team three years ago? Just saying, there is a path to be taken here thanks to the Bengals (of all teams)
As always, it is important to keep perspective:
Important note for some of this year’s rookies… https://t.co/UElENTA1PP
— Khari Thompson (@kdthompson5) January 31, 2022
Let’s keep in mind that teams can get better as a season goes along. Remember when Cincy’s CB situation was so bad that their head coach was taking practice reps? It’s almost as if growth is a thing that can happen over the course of the season. Weird how that can happen…
It obviously begins with a stud QB who has swag, skill, and a killer instinct. Joe Burrow is that dude. And the Bears need Justin Fields to be that dude in Chicago. If he isn’t, then it’ll be time to go back to the drawing board. However, we’ve got some time before we get to that bridge (let alone cross it). But, in short, the Bengals aren’t going to Los Angeles without Burrow slinging the pill, calling the shots, and making the plays. Quarterback play wins in this league. Full stop.
But it doesn’t stop there, as team building also includes the importance of real investments in skill position players. On top of that, there needs to be trust between the players, coaches, and front office. No one is dunking on Cincy for taking Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell right now. And one of the main reasons is because the Bengals don’t make it to this point without Chase. Taking nothing away from Sewell, but Chase is a game-changing receiver. And because Burrow was insistent on bringing in his guy, it paid off.
I don’t know who that guy for Justin Fields would be, but I doubt former Ohio State teammate Chris Olave falls to a place where the Bears can draft him. Nevertheless, that is the type of playmaker the Bears need to prioritize finding this offseason. But they shouldn’t stop there, because Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are nice complimentary pieces in that offense. So while finding Fields his own version of chase, unearthing two more receivers who other teams need to be cognizant of when scheming their defenses is important, too. To be clear, I’m not saying that Fields is one elite pass-catching target away from getting the Bears to the Super Bowl. But it would be a fun place to start.
And we can’t overlook Cincy’s defense. It came up with big stops at the end of each half.
First, keeping the Chiefs off the scoreboard while facing a 21-10 halftime deficit was a turning point moment in that game. And to hold K.C. out of the end zone and limit the Chiefs to a field goal when they were marching with a 1st-and-goal while down by three points was a net win. So much for that “let them score” conversation that Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were having. Credit Cincy’s front office for piecing together their defensive through short-term free agency pieces, along with some bits and pieces here and there from recent drafts. I want to make it clear that the Bengals aren’t some overnight, one-and-done turnaround. It might feel that way, but you can see how Cincinnati was able to forge a path because of its quarterback. And that is where it all begins.