Fortune favors the bold. And when it comes to forecasting something other than a bottom-tier finish for the 2022 Chicago Bears, one needs to be just that.
Jason La Canfora (CBS Sports) predicts the Bears will be in for a rough ride. So does Peter King, who put the Lions ahead of the Bears in his May ’22 rankings at FMIA. ESPN’s Football Power Index projections list the Bears among the bottom feeders with just 5.6 wins, a 12 percent shot at making the playoffs, and a 0.5 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. PFF’s latest power rankings release has the Seahawks as the only team ranking below them among the NFL’s rebuilding squads. In other words, the Bears are among the longest of long shots when it comes to competing for something more than pride and development in 2022.
But don’t tell that to David Montgomery, who sees big things in the Bears’ future:
“I’m excited for everyone on this team to kind of go out and have fun, but also dominate,” Montgomery said while speaking with WGN’s Jarrett Payton and Kaitlin Sharkey. “We’re going to do a lot of things that people don’t expect us to do. We’re going to shock a lot of people.”
I’ll admit that it isn’t the boldest prediction Montgomery could’ve come across with in the interview. For instance, his predecessor Jordan Howard said the team was “definitely going to win” the NFC North in February 2018 — long before football’s free agency frenzy, the NFL Draft, and that Khalil Mack trade went down. Even still … it takes a certain brand of guts to pull out a boldly positive prediction. Then again, the factors are there for Montgomery’s visions of the Bears being a pleasant surprise to come true.
It begins with hiring a new coach. Bonus points for Matt Eberflus going in on establishing a new culture after the wheels fell off. It continues with bringing in a new play-caller whose offensive scheme that caters to the skills of the players. We haven’t seen Luke Getsy run the show, but his style can’t be worse than running a system on the idea that it should work well here because it worked where elsewhere. And, of course, the Bears have a developing quarterback with loud tools and tremendous upside due to untapped potential that went unrealized due to the failings of the previous regime.
Yeah, I still believe in Justin Fields. Can you blame me?
Wow. Now that I’ve written it all out, it almost seems like we’re poised for a 2018 re-boot.
Except for two minor things.
The 2022 Bears weren’t blessed with the cap space or draft positioning the 2018 Bears had at their disposal. In March 2016, GM Ryan Pace spent gobs of money in adding high-profile free agent pass-catchers Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton. A month later, Pace was using his first-round pick to fortify the middle of the defense (Roquan Smith). A day later, he would boost the offense (OL James Daniels, WR Anthony Miller) with second-round selections.
Fast forward to 2022, and Ryan Poles – who wasn’t inactive by any stretch – didn’t replicate the Pace blueprint from 2018. And maybe that is for the best. After all, neither Gabriel nor Burton made it to the end of their respective free agent contracts. Miller didn’t last through the end of his rookie deal and was dealt to the Texans before training camp began in 2021. Miller didn’t last through the end of his rookie deal. In fact, Miller is probably most known among Bears fans for his ejection from a playoff game for throwing hands at CJ Gardner-Johnson — something coaches warned him against doing before the game.
And yet, Montgomery still sees silver linings where so many others see dark clouds. In a way, I find it honorable. It is easy to fall into a dark place with the Bears coming off the year they had last year. And for someone like Montgomery, it would be easy to already be looking forward to free agency as you enter your final season on a rookie deal. Instead, Montgomery’s mind is in this moment. That’s honorable, I guess. Maybe this is just another example of the Bears playing the underdog card going into a season with minimal expectations. But isn’t this one of the reasons we watch the NFL? To see the unexpected? You can’t script this stuff. And no one would dare write out an out-of-the-blue Bears run. But we’ll watch, just in case it happens.
There is no better reality TV programming than the NFL slate. And maybe the Bears will be the pleasant surprise of the new fall schedule.