A quiet place: A more hushed Bears’ off-season is a sign of progress

By Robert Zeglinski
Contributor

At the peak of his powers, famed college basketball coach John Wooden built one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. Over a 12-year period from 1964 to 1975, Wooden’s UCLA Bruins won an astonishing and unprecedented 10 championships.The coaching legend helped establish an uncommon culture where even if you were a player that didn’t go to the NBA after enjoying preeminent college success, you brought along with you the greatest of proverbs and life lessons. Wooden often acted as more of a father figure than coach, which is why he was so successful. This, of course, made him a bastion of coaching and life wisdom as outlined in his pyramid of success.

One of Wooden’s most famous quotes illustrates how keeping busy means little in achieving anything meaningful. “Don’t mistake activity for achievement,” Wooden famously said. Don’t conflate working many hours at your craft as making a difference in your life if they’re not being spent in a quality fashion. Efficiency is the name of the game as is not attempting to fix what isn’t broken in the least.

Of all of the magnanimous Wooden’s most reverberated lessons, it’s the ideal of efficient work that most stands tall with the current Bears.

For the first time in years, the Bears are in a place where they don’t have to spend a smorgasbord in free agency. With largely most of their Super Bowl roster locked in, they don’t even have the resources in cap space or draft capital to do so if they wanted to strike at the heart of ambition. It’s not to say that they shouldn’t seek upgrades at positions like running back and kicker but more that they don’t need to majorly tinker around as much with roster churn as they previously have to get to this point of comfort. Part of the original grand design set about by general manager Ryan Pace in 2015 was always in allowing themselves to bask in established chemistry to work for a coming short championship window.

That basking period in letting the chips fall where they may has arrived.

There’s an argument for continuity and keeping a good thing going as long as you can. Nothing lasts forever, and change is inevitable. Barring an unmitigated and unpredictable disaster, the Bears have one of the NFL’s best things going and it’s on tap until it’s clear otherwise. They’re not in a position where they can make a splash for an  Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, or Allen Robinson and that should be thoroughly appreciated. It means they’re prepared to win now. It means they’re on the precipice of finally finishing a grueling climb that’s been mercilessly grinding on for over three decades.

The Bears don’t need to find a premier and generational pass rusher this spring because they already have one in Khalil Mack. A luxury most teams spend ages never finding is a box the Bears have easily checked off as the freakish Mack embarrasses offensive linemen with seemingly minimal effort play after play. The NFL’s Thanos that legitimately makes everyone around him better and doesn’t lose sight of his own individual transcendent goals.

Some defenses have to blitz and compromise the integrity of their defense to get pressure on high-flying offenses and passes. Mack just decides he’s going to hit the quarterback and lo an behold he does.

The Bears don’t need a head coach that understands the modern game of football more than most because they already have one in Matt Nagy. Some organizations spend years trying to find a person that can establish a respectful culture to be proud of. A person that can unite 53 different personalities so effectively under one perfect. umbrella The reigning NFL Coach of the Year Nagy, meanwhile, did in it one year.

That the Bears have already bought into Nagy’s mantra speaks volumes of the program and trust everyone at Halas Hall has in one another.

The Bears don’t need a young quarterback of the future to uncommonly lift them because Mitchell Trubisky is already meticulously working on his craft. Whereas some might still doubt the credibility of the 24-year-old as the man to take Chicago to the promised land, the Bears don’t. Trubisky is the Big Man On Campus at Halas Hall. Entering the second year of Nagy’s complex offense should be a scenario where a seasoned Trubisky is ripe for weekly star-like success. Where he’s prepared to be a household name for more than draft position, but actual play that experiences no ups and downs like he’s capable of.

On a roster rife with explosive personalities and game-changers galore, it says everything about the young and still growing Trubisky that he leads his sleuth of Bears.

For years, the Bears ownership under the McCaskey family has had a false portrayal that they’re not willing to spend. For years, it was difficult for most to stomach it was false because the Bears were enjoying no success on the field and one could poke reasonable holes in their operation anywhere you turned. It didn’t matter that they consistently ranked in the top 10 in spending if the fruits of their labor on the field were entirely empty. It meant that their work was then inefficient and ineffective.

In 2018, the Bears were the NFL’s fourth-highest spending team according to Over The Cap at $197 million doled out in average per year. If they had gone 7-9 or 8-8, many would still think they were cheap.

Instead, they received among the best possible bangs for their buck for a team that won the NFC North and could’ve arguably ventured much farther into the postseason if not for a missed kick.

The Bears possess a mostly complete roster ready to break through. It took copious amounts of stress, planning, and time to get here. If they’re not at the forefront of free agency and the draft over the next 2.5 months, that says more about a league attempting to catch up to their level than any faults they may have.

In the proudest of Wooden pictures, the Bears are an example of achievement being maximized in activity. Now all that’s missing is the championships.

Robert is an editor, writer, and producer. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski. 

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