Most Septembers, Chicagoans end a summer of bickering about whether the Cubs or White Sox were more terrible in any given season and unite to root for the Bears at the start of football season. Since the conclusion of the 2007 Super Bowl, that involved rooting for what is arguably the most mediocre team in football. In the seven seasons since the Bears last played in the world’s biggest annual television spectacle, the Bears finished 7-9 twice (2007 and 2009), 8-8 twice (2011 and 2013), 9-7 once (2008), 10-6 once (2012) and 11-5 once (2010). In only one of those seasons, 2010, the Bears made the playoffs.
In that span, the Bears have never been a bad team, but instead have been consistently mediocre. Even had the Bears slipped into the playoffs this season, no one would have confused them for a Super Bowl contender. And the route to true, Super Bowl contention relevance is… well, it seems like the Bears are as far away from that now as they were a year ago. The Bears have the best offense I can ever remember them having, but now the defense is a mess, and old.
Now, the NFL is different from the MLB in a lot of ways. The NFLPA has nowhere near the power the MLBPA does, and there’s a salary cap, so the ability to build through free agency is greater. Also, success in the NFL is so heavily dependent on good quarterback play, and there’s just no comparable position in baseball, even the ace starting pitcher.
But the Bears’ mediocrity merely begets more mediocrity. It’s been nearly a decade of hole filling, and once one is filled, another opens up. Oh, they were able to fix the problems enough for one year to make a run in the playoffs one season when they drew a favorable matchup at home in the divisional round against a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team, and they’ve been largely competivish for the past few seasons. But no one has mistaken the Bears for a real Super Bowl contender, and they’ve been constantly a step behind the Green Bay Packers.
But the Bears, particularly in the latter half of the Jerry Angelo years, were close enough to competitive that there was a constant excuse to not tear the parts that didn’t work down.
Now, tear downs can fail. They’re risky, and a failed teardown means everyone in the front office and on the coaching staff loses their jobs. If the Cubs’ farm system based rebuild doesn’t work out, Theo Epstein’s legacy will take a significant hit. But the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod regime are not interested in being competivish.
As a fan, I’d rather have a tear down and rebuild for a shot at a Packers or St. Louis Cardinals like extended run of true competitiveness, even if the tear down might not work, then close to a decade of uninspired mediocrity. Trust me, the latter is far more annoying.