In many ways, New Year’s Day was a fresh start for the Chicago Bears. General Manager Ryan Pace fired ineffective coach John Fox and soon after brought in his replacement, the antithesis of Fox, a fresh-faced, offensive-minded coach that represented the future of this franchise in Matt Nagy. Also, Nagy would be the one entrusted with molding the future of the franchise in second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Pace then went into free agency determined to fill the offensive holes that plagued his young quarterback last season in bringing in free agency’s top receiver Allen Robinson, the electric Taylor Gabriel, and the athletic tight end Trey Burton. Then came the draft with additions like linebacker Roquan Smith and receiver Anthony Miller that will help shape the future of this franchise.
It was as if the Bears and Pace completely wiped clean the stink of 2017 and presented a hopeful and optimistic and exciting 2018.
Suffice to say, there were a lot of expectations and intrigue surrounding the Bears headed into this 2018 season. And then Pace went out and did the bold, the entirely possible, the franchise-altering move of trading for All-Pro, 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, professional quarterback eater Khalil Mack.
Pace rocked the NFL world on Saturday morning with the trade for pass rusher Khalil Mack, who is not only now the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL ($141 million for 6 years) but is, no exaggeration, a top three defensive player in the league. Suddenly, the Bears’ weakest position (pass rusher) wasn’t only addressed but entirely solved as Mack’s arrival brings an All-Pro pass rusher and makes this Top 10 defense even better.
Suddenly, those expectations of “build for the future” morphed into a win-now mentality. With this move, Pace is signaling that he believes they’ve got their quarterback in Mitch Trubisky. With this move, Pace is signaling that his team is ready to win now. With this move, Pace is signaling that the realistic goal, this season, is playoffs and Super Bowl.
You don’t make this move if you don’t believe you’re ready now. You don’t make this move if you don’t think you have your quarterback of the future. You don’t make this move if you aren’t convinced this is a playoff team. But here we are. Pace went out and staked his claim in the expectations for the Bears this season.
Mack is the kind of player that instantly makes everyone around him better. He’ll alleviate the stress from Trubisky to get off to a fast and immediate start. He’ll alleviate the stress from Leonard Floyd. He’ll make everyone’s lives on that defense exponentially better. Mack will draw the double, triple teams that will free up Akiem Hicks and Floyd and Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Then there’s an already solid Bears secondary that’s feasting on the idea of even more picks with Mack hunting down the quarterback. Mack makes this Top 10 defense a Top 5 defense, and it’s going to be fun to watch this defense go out and eat.
Honestly, I still feel like I’m dreaming. I’m waiting for someone to wake me up from the sweetest dream I’ve had in years. Moves like this just don’t happen. You just don’t get a top three defensive player in the prime of his career the way the Bears just did.
The Bears’ addition of Mack has made this team exponentially better. A team that most pegged for 6-7 wins this season has now jumped to 8-10 wins, which would make them a contender for the playoffs. Yes, one player can do that. Yes, Khalil Mack is that damn good.