Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
And I’ll say this about the 2021 Bears…they’re interesting! The coach might be nuts. The quarterbacks may stage a mutiny. The GM may be in witness protection.
Who the hell knows what football team is going to show up on Sunday?
The Nagy Rebound Effect
The first major hiccup of the Matt Nagy era in Chicago was the 2019 opener. The Bears were lifeless on offense against the Green Bay Packers, the quarterback was horrible, and the team lost 10-3 at home. How did they rebound from that effort? They won their next three games, two on the road, by a combined score of 62-35.
The next significant hiccup (light term) of the Nagy era came at the tail end of a six-game losing streak in 2020. After being blown out by the Packers at Lambeau, the Bears collapsed against the Detroit Lions to fall to 5-7. Many, including this space, called for Nagy’s firing. How did the team rebound? They won their next three games, scored a million points, and found themselves in the postseason. (You can bring up the opponents here if you like but the results are the results.)
Like it or not, the Bears have rebounded from the shakiest moments of Nagy’s tenure. And one can argue there has been no shakier moment than Sunday in Cleveland. Will they rebound again?
Arlington Heights: Three Questions with the Tribune’s Rick Pearson
Rick Pearson is one of the country’s finest political journalists. He is also one of my favorite people on the earth. Follow him on Twitter – @Rap30.
DBB: You suggested in your Tweet there’d be no interest in using city money to keep the Bears in Chicago proper. So if George and Ted went to the city and said, “We need X amount for renovations and improvements and we’ll stay three more decades” does the city see no value in making that happen? Or is the money just not there?
RP: Those TV establishing shots of Soldier Field on a warm spring day over Lake Michigan look very enticing and perfect for a post card. But the state and city have a heavy postage due bill. If George and Ted came to the city and state and listed their desired improvements, they would be listened to. But the only real answer for the team in the way the modern-day NFL operates is a new stadium. Soldier Field has been renovated as far as it can be without being torn down—an unlikely situation for a historic war memorial even though its 2006 renovation stripped it of its national landmark status. The stadium’s historic colonnades prevent the sidelines from being widened to add new seats to the smallest gridiron in the league. Neither the state nor city has the money or the appetite for a new multi-billion dollar stadium—either in Chicago or in Arlington Heights. More than $430 million in debt is outstanding on the renovation that created the current Soldier Field, paid largely through hotel taxes, and the agency that issued the bonds is at junk-bond credit status.
DBB: Nobody builds these new buildings without taxpayer money. That conversation is coming. How will it be received? Do you think it can be avoided?
RP: As I said, there is very little appetite for public financing for a brand new stadium. In fact, there’s resentment that the Bears would likely leave before the latest bonds have been paid off, coinciding with the team’s lease through 2033. A new stadium in Arlington Heights would get minimal public funding for things like roads and sewer, similar to what the privately owned United Center got on the West Side. But Arlington Heights and its 326 acres provide the Bears with several funding opportunities. They can link up with a private developer to create retail and even residential opportunities. The NFL has a loan program for new stadiums and the Bears, as a founding member of the league, would likely get favorable terms. In addition, a domed stadium also would provide new year-round opportunities for revenue. And the team wouldn’t have to split some of its revenues with the Chicago Park District, its current leaseholder, and would be able to sell naming rights. Then add the prospect of a sportsbook on game days, which is something the Bears clearly want and haven’t been able to get.
DBB: What do you think it will mean to the city – specifically that area of the city – to lose the Bears to the burbs?
RP: The South Loop, where Soldier Field is located, is among the fastest growing areas of the city and can withstand the loss of 10 or so events. Soldier Field would still exist for Chicago Fire soccer, admittedly less of a draw than the Bears, as well as a home for international soccer matches which, when Mexico plays, have filled the stadium. Soldier Field also would continue to be a place for major outdoor concerts. The team’s fan base is strong in the suburbs and while traffic to Arlington Heights might get bad, it was always worse trying to get to and park at Soldier Field on game days. And hey, regardless of a move to the suburbs, they’ll always be the Chicago Bears—and the eyes of all Chicagoland will be on them every time they play.
Stats of the Week
- The Lions have played the Niners, Packers and Ravens in this early stretch of the season and they are gaining 162 yards per game more than the Bears. (Sunday, of course, swayed these numbers against the Bears but Sunday did, in fact, count.) When you look at these two offensive rosters, that seems inconceivable.