I wasn’t in Jacksonville on Sunday. So it’s hard to explain for sure why the crowd of 17,000 seemed to be dressed up in Chicago Bears gear, cheering for the road team over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Everyone kept talking about loyal Bears fans making the 1,000-mile drive to the game.
And maybe that’s all this was, but I suspect those fans didn’t really make that drive. Most of them weren’t actually Bears fans at all. Fans of both teams wanted the Bears to win.
The Bears did win, 41-17, so everyone was happy. The Bears moved into position to make the playoffs. And Jacksonsville won the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes, locking up the worst record in the NFL — and the first pick in the draft.
So which team was the real winner Sunday?
The Jaguars. The loser was the winner. And the winner? Well, because of that win, the Bears are now in position to save the jobs of their general manager, coach and quarterback, who all need to be fired.
Winning and losing in sports used to be so easy to understand. The team that scores the most points wins — Yay! — and the one with the fewest points loses — Boo!
Now, Jacksonville’s loss sets up their future, while the Bears’ win buries theirs.
Over the past two weeks, the New York Jets have “won’’ their way out of getting Lawrence, the quarterback who could finally replace Joe Namath. Lawrence of Clemson looks like one of those quarterbacks who makes a team good for a generation. The Jets had lost enough to have him locked up, and then lost him with their wins.
Neither Jacksonville nor Chicago has had a quarterback for years. They share that. Jacksonville had one in Mark Brunnell, who has been gone now for 17 years. And while 17 years without a quarterback feels eternal for most teams, to the Bears, it feels like last Thursday.
Understand that Jacksonville is a terrible, terrible team. They were in a Championship Game three years ago, but that was their only winning season since 2008.
You can rebuild in a hurry in the NFL, but there is no way to have lasting success without a quarterback. Without one, you get into that desperate mode where you overpay for mediocre quarterbacks one after another.
Ironically, Jacksonville did that in 2019 on quarterback Nick Foles. And then the Bears did it in 2020 on. . .yes, Nick Foles.
Foles could be the richest mediocre quarterback in NFL history.
He became the Bears starter early this season when Chicago finally gave up on Mitch Trubisky. Then, Foles was so bad that the Bears brought back Trubisky.
And let’s be honest here: Trubisky has been good since he came back, but he has done so against some of the worst teams in the NFL.
Now, the Bears need to beat Green Bay to get into the playoffs. They could still make the playoffs with a loss to Green Bay, as long as Arizona loses to Los Angeles.
It’s hard to know what to make of the Bears. They won five of their first six games, lost the next six and now have won three in a row. If they beat Green Bay — Trubisky beats Aaron Rodgers — then I fear Chicago will be stuck with Trubisky for the next 10 years.
On Sunday, there were just enough reminders about why Trubisky, Nagy and Pace must go. Trubisky threw an incredibly dumb interception in the endzone for the second week in a row. And Nagy inexplicably went back to their old failed gameplan in the first half — putting Trubisky in the shotgun with no running backs — against maybe the worst run defense in the NFL. The Bears led just 13-10 at halftime,
Then in the second half, Nagy switched back to what had been working the past few weeks. The Bears started running the ball or rolling out Trubisky, and they outscored Jacksonville 21-0 in the third quarter.
If the Bears actually beat Rodgers and rival Green Bay in a game that matters, and that gets them to the playoffs, everyone will have a reason to keep jobs. Even worse would be the Bears losing and getting into the playoffs anyway. That way the Bears would go 8-8 for the second year in a row, lose the Big Game, beating only crummy ones to get into that game. Yet everyone would keep his job.
It’s so hard to tell the winners from the losers anymore. I wonder how many Packers fans will make the drive down to Chicago this Sunday.