Did you know the NFL draft is tomorrow? If you listen to sports talk radio or check the latest twitter feeds, Bears draft preview conversation and links are few and far between. That is not to say there has not been extensive work done preparing for who the Bears will select with the 87th pick, but it has been on the sports fans’ back burner, with their thoughts headlined with Cubs pitching woes and Bulls dysfunction.
The NFL Draft is one of the most important dates on every team’s and every fan’s calendar, yet this year it’s a blip on the radar in Chicago.
For the first time in seven years, the draft is not the most important date for the Bears. The team and fans have their sights set on February 2nd, 2020 as the most important date this upcoming season.
The Bears are now the ‘hunted’ again in the NFC North as Matt Nagy recently stated and fans cannot wait for the start of next season. While the Bears are without both 1st and 2nd round picks in this year’s draft which dampens the excitement for the draft, in years past, that 87th pick would be broken down for weeks ahead of the Bears’ big night.
But this year is different. The Bears are a Super-Bowl contender. Finally, fans can be more excited for what is to come during the season, rather than making sure they win the offseason.
Rejoice Bears nation, the team is once again not only relevant but a true contender.
7 Years Of Misery
After the 2010 NFC Championship game that saw the Bears and Jay Cutler fall to the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, the Bears spiraled out of control, with their only hope being the draft each offseason to get the team back on track and to generate hope and excitement.
Having the Bears out of the playoffs for almost a decade, this was the only thing we as fans had to hold onto.
The Bears selected Tackle Gabe Carimi in 2011 with the 29th pick, only to be followed by 7 straight top 20 picks, with 5 out of 7 being in the top 10.
In the blink of an eye, the Bears went from NFC Conference runner-ups to the laughing stock of the league, thanks to poor drafts, Phil Emery, Marc Trestman and John Fox.
After the draft of Carimi, and an 8-8 season, the team went on to select their next pool of talent of projected stars to bring the Bears back to prominence, still having Jay Cutler at the helm.
The team selected Shea McClellin in the first round the following year, followed by a slew of embarrassing draft picks that still to this day Bears fans are trying to understand.
We as Bears fans were forced to put so much stock into players like McClellin, Jonathan Bostic, Marquess Wilson, Ego Ferguson, Hroniss Grasu, Nathan Enderle, David Fales, Kevin White, Kyle Long, Kyle Fuller, Leonard Floyd, and more. And while a few of those players like Fuller, Long and Floyd have become mainstays for the Bears, alongside recent picks Mitch Trubisky and Roquan Smith, those other names are a reminder of a disappointing past of endless hope with very little reward.
Now, while the draft is still, of course, important in order to continue to build and sustain a top-tier NFL team, it is not the ‘be all end all’ for football fans in Chicago this year. Bears nation does not have to be forced to put false hope in projections of college players, because that hope can be streamlined to a hoping that the team can truly compete for a Super Bowl in 2019, which is a realistic goal for this club.
Atop The Food Chain
Now that the Bears are widely considered a top team in the NFL, the feeling that Bears fans can easily look past the draft and straight toward training camp is a very weird feeling.
Is this what Patriots’ fans feel like every year? In the same time-frame we are looking at with the Bears, while the Patriots have landed names like Nate Solder, Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones, Tavon Wilson, Don’t’a Hightower, Jimmy Garoppolo, Sony Michel and more, fans were not waiting on pins and needles each April for the NFL Draft.
For Patriots’ fans, the draft is a nice supplemental treat during the offseason. It is not worth the endless hours of film tape and study by fans because whoever they would be drafting would simply be an addition to the already well-oiled machine that was on their way to 5 Super Bowl appearances, with 3 resulting in Championships during this window.
While in no way am I comparing the Bears to the greatness that has been the New England Patriots over the last 20 years, but what I am saying is Bears fans now are able to have the same luxury that Patriots fans have enjoyed for decades; skipping the NFL Draft.
Fans don’t need to study daily to learn about which key college football player the team needs to draft, or debate talk show hosts for hours on end during draft coverage. Just as the Patriots have, the Bears will draft whoever they draft and fans will, of course, want that player to pan out, but the draft pick’s success will not make or break the entire future of the franchise as it has in years past.
Whoever the Bears add will be a great compliment to the already strong team they have built.
So for the first time in a long time, take the weekend off, you’ll find out who the Bears draft in July when training camp begins. You have that luxury now with a championship-contender, so take advantage.