It is a summertime tradition unlike any other.
A quartet of ESPN analysts — Jeremy Fowler, Louis Riddick, Seth Walder, and Field Yates — attempt to look into the future and project what is to come for each of the NFL’s 32 teams. In the exercise, each franchise’s quarterback situation, total roster (sans QB), draft ability, front office, and coaching gets a grade on a 0-100 scale. It all comes to a head with an overall grade that ranks teams from 1-32 based on what they think the future holds.
And when it comes to the Chicago Bears, it is as bleak as they come.
- Coaching: 30th, which ranks the Bears as the lowest among the teams with first-year head coaches. Sorry, Matt Eberflus.
- Drafting ability: 30th, which is the second lowest among teams with a first-year GM. Only the Raiders (32nd) rank lower in the group of teams with first-time general managers.
- Front office: 25th, which isn’t bottom-five bad — but is still in the bottom third of the overall rankings.
- Overall roster (minus QB): 30th, which is as much of a sign of failures at the end of Ryan Pace’s tenure as it is an example of Ryan Poles’ shortcomings in Year 1.
- Quarterback: 24th, which represents the most optimistic ranking of the bunch. And even still … it ain’t all that good.
As much as it pains me to say it, I don’t have much of a bone to pick with these rankings. These Bears are a work in progress. More than that, they are in the beginning stages of an organizational rebuild — which merits this type of grading. However, I’d quibble with the coaching ranking. Last year, the Bears were 25th. This team sliding down five spots despite firing Matt Nagy doesn’t vibe with me. Neither does the quarterback ranking, which was at 20th last year. There was just one Round 1 quarterback taken in the last draft, but somehow Fields slips four spots? The math isn’t math-ing to me.
On the other end of the spectrum, the front office grade receives a major boost when comparing to last year’s rankings. The Bears went from 32nd under Ryan Pace to 25th with Ryan Poles. It isn’t a monumental leap, but it feels significant. Let’s face it. The Bears were in a dark place by the time we closed the book on Pace’s time in Chicago.
Perhaps we can circle Poles’ presence as a reason for optimism. It sure sees as if Field Yates has it for the Bears’ GM hire:
“GM Ryan Poles was hired to get this organization on track, and you can count on these facts: He will be disciplined, and he will pour endless hours into the draft.”
Considering the lack of discipline showed by Pace in making some of his higher-profile moves and the inconsistency in draft strategy, moving into the Poles era is refreshing.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Fowler envisions a brighter future for the Bears than you might otherwise expect when discussing a team ranking 30th of 32 teams in future power rankings. But Fowler lays out a feasible plan for the Bears to build a competitive roster while simultaneously whipping the overall roster’s health back into shape.
“The Bears aren’t overly talented this year but should have nearly $100 million in cap space for 2023. Under Poles, they can get better in a hurry and surround Fields with more talent.”
The belief that the Bears “can get better in a hurry” under Poles’ watch and because of a forecast of injecting some new talent around Fields is enough to charge me up. But it still has me wondering what should we take from this? That the Bears are doomed to sling it with the bottom-feeders for the foreseeable future? Ha! Not on my watch. And definitely not when ESPN’s analysts share a silver lining of hope that accompanies what is otherwise a dark and dreary cloud.