DECEMBER RELEVANT FOR 15 DAYS IS NOT BAD

 

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Never being one to toot my own horn but it was really good to se Mitchell Trubisky have such a great game, after calling it. I think that’s the high point of the season though.

I looked up the numbers a while ago, but in the last 10 seasons the Bears have only beaten the Packers four times. 

It’s frustrating. I live up in Wisconsin country and Packer fans have come to expect the victory and take extra joy in seeing the Bears do poorly. 

The reasons are complicated and have a lot to do with the close proximity of the two states and the fact when Illinois people come across  the border they can act like total idiots. 

That’s another column for another day.

This one is about if the Bears have a chance at all, what must happen. Let’s break some of it down.

KEYS TO THE GAME

PACKERS OFFENSIVE LINE VERSUS BEARS DEFENSIVE LINE

The first key is containing Aaron Rodgers. He can scramble for a first down, and his offensive line is probably the best in football. I have seen them block guys for as long 10 seconds. If you give a qb all sorts of time in the pocket he usually picks you apart. Rodgers is extraordinarily gifted at moving his feet, keeping his eyes downfield, and not getting rattled. You can see it in his face, last year aside. He usually is very calm and joking around with the other team. It keeps people off guard. He’s a Bear killer and the only way the Bears have a chance of beating him is if he’s off his game. If their front four can get pressure they have a chance. Akiem Hicks should be back, if he’s ready that could be big difference. If not, they’ll have to blitz and take their chances.

CAN MITCHELL TRUBISKY PLAY LIKE HE DID AGAINST THE COWBOYS?

It’s a different game when he’s running the football. He’s got good instincts when he runs, he looks around for guys who are about to hit him and he’s fast and quick. If he plays with a high qb rating and throws td passes and scrambles well, they got a shot. He has to play great though. The Packers defense has been good at hurrying quarterbacks and that is Trubisky great weakness, he doesn’t always make good decisions under pressure, and often tries to force the ball. 

WHERE’S THE TIGHT END?

Probably the most surprising part about the Cowboys game was seeing them find the tight ends. JP Holtz and Jesper Horsted? Who? Exactly. When you look at the KC Chiefs and see how prominent the role of tight end is in their offense, it’s fair to ask where has this been all year. A big tight end is a nice target for a fair to middlingly accurate quarterback like Trubisky. He doesn’t have to be perfect. If these tight ends can get separation from the safety guarding them, I like their chances. Horsted and Holtz combined for nearly 100 yards on eight catches. Do that again against the Packers, is a whole other animal.

PACKERS 24 BEARS 14

onlyifyoudream tidbits……………since when did Nick Kwiatkoski become such a factor? He’s become a stud. He looks fast and strong and is always around the ball…………I keep hoping they find a way to get Tarik Cohen going but I think Nagy is afraid he’s going to fumble. How many time have we seen him run sideways this year? More than I care to count……………….Kevin Toliver made several nice tackles in his first start last week. Is he going to be their guy in the future?

 

TRUBISKY IS THE GUY! I KNOW BUT LISTEN….

 

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Tonight’s game against the Cowboys is interesting for two reasons. One is that with a win the Bears get to be “December relevant” for 10 more days until they play the Packers on December 15, and who are we kidding what team would you rather have knock us out of contention rather than Green Bay?

The second reason is that Mitchell Trubisky has had two very good games the last two weeks, and if he can finish out the season, whether the Bears make the playoffs or not, with games like those two, it’ll be hard for the Bears to not call him their number one guy moving forward.

That still doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t bring in someone to compete against him, but what it does mean is they can use some of the salary cap space to go get some offensive linemen and a tight end, at the very least.

I know Trubisky stats are still pretty dismal, and he makes some decisions that make you scratch your head, but the Bears still have another season invested in him so why not see if they can’t get some value from his four years of experience.

I know the popular opinion is to get someone in here, pronto. It’s a good argument. Hell, I made the argument a little while ago. But think of the upside if the Bears don’t have to pay another qb? If we just ride out the storm like seasoned Bear fans who have seen into the beyond with their fair share of mediocre quarterback play.

It also gives Matt Nagy more of a chance to work with him. I know the response of what has he been doing now, is on the verge of my lips too, but nothing teaches better than failing.

Another plus side to bringing in free agents on the offensive line is how much worse can they do than what’s out there now? Want to get the run game going? It helps to have good blockers. Want to see more average yards per completion? It helps to have good blockers.

Also, on the tight end side, I seem to remember Matt Nagy using the KC Chiefs Travis Kelce a lot and where has the tight end play been this year. Adam Shaheen is probably not the answer.

I still think Trubisky can do it. But he has to build on what he’s shown in these last two games in order to prove it. The NFL shouldn’t let mediocre qbs play for so long. They should be recycling them on a regular basis. You never know who might turn into a stud. I know it might lead to poor play, but look how nice David Blough the backup, backup played against the Bears tough defense. 

Anyway, something to think about. 

BEARS 23 COWBOYS 20  OT

onlyifyoudream tidbits………………FOR FIVE DAYS IN DECEMBER WE CAN SAY THE BEARS ARE STILL DECEMBER RELEVANT, WHATEVER THAT MEANS…………IF WE DO GET TO DREAM ABOUT WHO MIGHT LOOK GOOD IN A BEAR’S UNIFORM I’D LIKE TO SEE CAM NEWTON. ANYBODY THAT ACTUALLY WANTS TO COME HERE GETS MY VOTE HANDS DOWN.

 

 

 

CAN MATT NAGY SAVE THIS SEASON?

 

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Most people when evaluating their own work, have to be honest about what they’re doing well, what they’re not doing well and what they need to work on.

The blame and success is placed by the feet of its leaders and so it is with these 2019 Chicago Bears. 

Which is why when you hear about how this team is doing, invariably names like Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy, Mitchell Trubisky, always come up. 

In fact, you can’t read a story about the Bears without hearing their names get mentioned.

So what it is about this Bears team that makes you feel like the season is already over?

The offense, plain and simple, is so bad that it reminds you of those teams in the 70’s that would just run the ball up the middle for three time for five yards and then punt.

Ranking last in nearly every category is not the way to get you to believe in a new head coach who was specifically brought because of his offensive chops.

So why can’t the Bears move the ball, get first downs, and score touchdowns?

Or another way of asking the question, is there anything they’re doing well? Anything they can build on? 

I don’ know what the stats are but when they let Trubisky move around in the pocket they do well. When they have him finding his tight end they do well. When he’s looking to run the ball they do well. When they run for more than 2 yards a carry they do well. When they take chances they do well.

You get the feeling that Nagy is keeping the reins so tight on his quarterback and offense that they can’t play with the way it’s set up now.

I like Matt Nagy. I can’t think of a coach who impressed me so immediately than he did last year. That team had a chance to compete for a super bowl and he was a big reason.

You get the feeling if they just improved a little on offense they could start to look a pretty good team.

Having bigger run plays, passing to receivers, passing to running backs, passing to tight ends is going to be the way they do it, if they do it.

We’ll see. 

I’m not confident this week about this game against the Rams. But with a great defense anything is possible.

RAMS 21 BEARS 17

onlyifyoudreamtidbits………………what in the wide, wide world of sports happened to Tarik Cohen? Did he just go from stud to dud or have they failed miserably in getting him the ball? He looked like a number 1 draft pick last year and now he’s nowhere to be found…………also where are the tight ends? Seeing Ben Braunecker catch that td pass last week was so nice to see. Why not give the guy more chances?

COMING UP TO THE MIDPOINT IN THE SEASON

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Coming up to the midpoint in the season.

I imagine the tumbling tumbleweed rolling over the great expectations

that once filled many a Bear fan’s heart.

I imagine the halls, the hallowed halls of George Halas Way in the sky and 1920 Football Drive on football field earth, are very silent right now.

I find myself already staring into the chasm of an endless night looking for possible quarterbacks to draft in the 2020 draft. 

How many quarterbacks does a team have to bring in and try before they can find a stud?

The right answer of course is as many as it takes. I also do think Matt Nagy can help a young quarterback. He’s a born leader, he’s had personal success at the position, and he will defend you.

The only thing he doesn’t have a defense for how bad his own offense is right now.

Settling for the field goal at the end of last week’s game, rather than trying to make it easier on a young kicker and getting a few extra yards with time on the clock, is an elephant in the room. But I think Nagy knows it.

Matt Nagy once Coach of the Year, now brought back down to earth.

There’s nothing so obvious then a parent that is dissatisfied with their own underachieving child. Everyone and especially the child can read it on their face. It’s not an algorithm to solve. It’s just basic human emotion.

Nagy looks that way to me. He looks beyond frustrated, like he’s trying to solve for the moon. 

It’s not rocket science as all the dummies like me like to say. 

You just have a bad offense, last in the league in nearly everything. But is it fixable? 

Sunday’s game against an injured opponent was better. David Montgomery’s long run skews the stats but still, not bad. Even Mitchell T made some nice long throws to Anthony Miller downfield. 

The defense looks really pretty great to me and if the offense was just ordinary I think we’d have a contender on our hands. Three losses have been decided by seven points or less. 

Also, what team is last place in their division but fourth best in the league in points allowed?

But the defense can’t alone win the Super Bowl, the offense needs to do something, generally speaking.

Sunday’s game against the Eagles will probably be bad. Trubisky looks like he can’t hear in his home stadium and can at times look really lost on the road but we’ll see. 

You beat a kid long enough and two extremes emerge. He either folds into himself thinking he deserves it, or he’s born again tough. It’s probably going to be somewhere in the middle. 

The Bears have been in every game but one this season, the Saints game. Every other game they’ve competed, even with a substandard offense. 

I’d like to see them run more like everyone would, but run more in less than obvious running situations. This offense doesn’t seem like it has made anyone play on their heels too much except for the Chargers game and of course the game against the lowly Redskins. 

I’d like to see them throw the ball downfield to give Trubisky some confidence early on in the game, and to keep those defensive backs of the Eagles from playing too tight of coverage.

I’d like to see them surprise some people this week. Usually teams caught in a losing streak can snap out of it, and show great flashes of what they can be.

But can they do it on the road? Against a good team? As much as my heart says yes, my mind says no. Another close game but no dice Chicago.

EAGLES 24 BEARS 18

onlyifyoudreamtidbits…………………to show you what a difference 34 years makes take a look at the often misread and misunderstood quarterback rating. Jim McMahon in our beloved 1985 Chicago Bears, a team that keeps orbiting like the moon further and further away from the earth, had a 82.6 QB rating during that season. Trubisky’s quarterback rating so far this season is 81.4. Eerily close, except McMahon played in the pro bowl that year (as an alternate) and Trubisky is stuck in another kind of bowl.

 

YOUR 2019 FAUSTIAN BEARS

 

 

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To borrow one of Lovie Smith’s little analogies, the Bears are in the second quarter of their season with still plenty of ball left to play. 

Good to see Lovie get a win over my Wisconsin Badgers. The way the fighting Illini were celebrating that victory you’d think they were the team destined for greatness and not the Badgers.

So are these Bears destined for anything so raucous? Why does it feel like they’re down by 21 points already in this football season of a game? 

Are they actually in the middle of a crossroads? 

Robert Johnson’s crossroads. 

Robert Johnson who sold his soul to the devil to become a legendary blues guitar player. 

Are you going to sell out with everything you got to make the playoffs and mount a Super Bowl challenge or start planning ahead for next year’s team knowing you’re not good enough?

Of course the Bears don’t need to sell their soul to make the playoffs and possibly win the Super Bowl. But they do need better than average quarterback play, great talent that plays like great talent and a little bit of luck. 

They also need to run the football, when David Montgomery is averaging 3 yards a carry and Tarik Cohen hasn’t even been a factor what’s going on?

ONE THING TO ASK THE DEVIL FOR MIGHT BE A BETTER QUARTERBACK

Mitch Trubisky is playing like the worst quarterback in the league. I hate to say this. I thought he was going to turn the corner and be great but that obviously hasn’t happened and I think the league is figuring out why.

He’s just not a good pocket passer and he’s not very accurate. He doesn’t really lead his receivers too well and hit them in stride. Probably the toughest thing to see is how uncomfortable he is just standing there. Part of this is Matt Nagy’s fault. 

How many times do we see the Bears get to the line of scrimmage and just stand there for 20 seconds, letting the defense catch their breath, and failing to get his quarterback into any kind of marching rhythm. 

How many times do we see him rolling out? Escaping the pocket? Creating on the fly?

It looks to me he wants Trubisky to be a kind of player he isn’t and so he hasn’t adapted to what his strengths are yet like moving without the ball and running.

ANOTHER FAUSTIAN DEAL TO MAKE MIGHT BE GETTING THE RUNNING GAME GOING

All we heard in training camp was how good David Montgomery is, how tough he is to tackle, and what a season he was going to have. He in fact might be and do all those things but something needs to change. 

I think he’s got talent. The number of guys he’s made miss has already exceeded what Jordan Howard could do last year. He can be a better back than Howard but so far he hasn’t shown it.

He looks like he’s tentatively hitting the holes and has no real long rushes from scrimmage. 

Plus the offensive line really doesn’t look like it’s been blocking as well this year and really pushing guys around.

And where is little scatback Tarik Cohen. Where are his attempts and targets? 

And where is Matt Nagy’s commitment to the run? All this adds up to 3.4 yards an attempt and one of the worst rushing offenses in the league.

DO YOU NEED TO SELL YOUR SOUL WITH SUCH AN IMPRESSIVE DEFENSE ALREADY?

It might be the most impressive thing about this year’s Bears is what the defense has done considering the offense has done squat. Even after losing Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols and Roquan Smith for a game they look tough. 

They haven’t been thoroughly dominating teams like last year and scoring touchdowns but they still have got some great players. Hopefully losing Hicks won’t be too big a loss and other guys will step up.

My guess is Robert Johnson before selling his soul must’ve had some amount of talent or something like a massive heart or else he wouldn’t of gotten to meet the devil in the first place, or ever wanted to be so great. 

I’m not suggesting the Bears sell something so vital to win a measly Super Bowl, but they might have already. 

DID THEY ALREADY SELL THEIR SOUL?

Khalil Mack can flat out play football as good as Robert Johnson can play guitar, but missing high draft picks for a young coach and rebuilding team is quite a high price to pay. Can he, Mack, by himself make the defense great? I think he already has. Can he continue to make those around him better? Looks like he’s doing that too. If the Mack and the defense has anything to say about it this team would already be famous.

ONLYIFYOUDREAM tidbits………..if all one did as a Bear fan was listen to and read Hub Arkush one would need little else to know how good the Bears are doing. A master craftsman at his work and I can only tip my cap and nod my head. In one of his columns last week he was talking about acquiring Colin Kaepernick as a no brainer to help make your team better and of course he’s dead on. Kaepernick is not the devil but the way the league has treated him you’d think he was. It would be a ballsy move to be sure, but greatness doesn’t sit and wait.

 

 

 

DO YOU HAVE A FRIEND TO HAVE AN ONGOING GAME TEXT WITH?

 

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The best part of Sunday’s game aside from the W, the offense scoring a touchdown, and knowing we have a great defense, was texting back and forth with my friend Buster. 

Buster is a made up name, to protect his real identity. He’s a rather famous Chicago lawyer (I think famous anyway) but his running commentary is pretty bang on.

Just a simple cut and paste here with some touch ups and edits.

ME:    That packer game was so tough to watch……even I nodded in and out of it. Reminded me of The Twilight Zone.

BUSTER:   Horrible.  So disappointing.  I am really starting to hate Nagy’s play calling after really liking it last year.  Bad mix last week, no balance, no plan. 

ME:    Exactly!! Me too. You have to take your shots to stretch the field. Reminds me of Lovie’s teams—-no turnovers no wins.

BUSTER:    Yep.

ME:    Remember Bob Parsons? Used to be the coffin corner was the 20 and in.

BUSTER:    I do remember him. Was our punter for a long time. 

ME:     I do notice Cohen running north and south which is about time and Montgomery getting a lot more touches.

BUSTER:    Mix does look better this week. There goes Trubisky again. He really is not very good. Overthrowing wide open receivers. 

ME:   Yeah I know. What happened to drafting a QB every year? And Pace didn’t need to trade up one spot!!!

BUSTER:    Agree! I think he could have got Trubisky late in the 1st round.  If he drafted Mahomes we would be headed to the Super Bowl. 

ME:    At some point you gotta cut bait but not there yet.

BUSTER:   Yeah he is adequate and we don’t have better.  There he goes again. 10 yards over the head of his target.  No downfield touch at all. 

ME:    Ugh. 

BUSTER:  Someone needs to call Pace out at this point.  

ME:    I know. Something is really off about Nagy’s play calling.

BUSTER:   Especially when we get near the red zone, which was a strength last year. Think I am going to stop watching. This is just awful. 

ME:    It’s an old brand.

BUSTER:  Oh my lord. 7 points. Who would believe?

ME:  Patterson looked pretty good on that play.

BUSTER:  Yeah. They called that play at the perfect time. Unlike last week. 

ME:   Yeah. I liked Patterson before they signed him, too.

BUSTER:   Great speed. You’d think he would be on the field more.  

ME:    Yeah exactly another Nagy kind of gap.

BUSTER:   It’s weird. None of his past teams used him a lot. Wonder what is up with that? 

ME:   I think it may have been his returns I was thinking of.

BUSTER:   Yeah.

ME:   That roughing was a horrible call.

ME:    God Mack is good.

BUSTER:    Agree on both.  Good that we held.  

ME:    You know I think the NFL has a lot vested in the Bears doing well …..I always have really.

BUSTER:   At least competitive. 

ME:   There’s so many fans…. 

BUSTER:    Guess who….25-36, 383 YDS, 4 TD?

ME:    Your guy.

BUSTER:   Mahomes. Is one TD pass too much to ask?

ME:   Trubisky 11-17 and 79 yards no TD’s.

BUSTER:   Not even a first down after Denver was on the field for that long drive. 

ME:    All I can say is Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson won Super Bowls. 

That’s the best I got.

BUSTER:   Yeah. That was a different NFL when low scoring teams could win. Our offense looks broken.  

ME:   Yeah even the worst teams’ offenses don’t look this bad…….

Hit that oxygen guys!

BUSTER:   Our offense killed our D. That 3 and out in the 4th quarter after a long drive was inexcusable. 

ME:   Great call by Fangio going for it on 4th.

BUSTER:   On the road at high altitude……….Fuller!!!!’

ME:    OMG! 

BUSTER:   What a time for that. 

ME:   I wanna say it’s about time but that would assume you can really control such things.

BUSTER:   Great interception.

ME:   Yeah if the defense can force turnovers it’s a whole different thing

Btw….great ongoing game texts. 

BUSTER:   Yeah….Needed one more first down. 

ME:   Yeah no guts. No confidence in Trubisky……Defense is gassed

Are you watching? 

BUSTER:   Yeah but disgusted. 

ME:    I love that he would go for two. 

BUSTER:    Can’t believe we called time out on 4th down. We do the most stupid things from a coaching perspective. Really down on Nagy. 

ME:   Yeah me too. I picked em to lose in my blog.

BUSTER:   Good. We deserve to lose. Hope they go after Nagy now. I am done watching for the year. Not kidding. I don’t want them to win. 

ME:   Yeah. 

BUSTER:   Game over.

ME:   Damn was that lucky.

BUSTER:   Feel good for Piniero. Can’t believe he made that. 

ME:   Yeah feel great for Piniero. You know one last note……..when Trubisky gets out of the pocket he’s pretty good, no?

BUSTER:   Yeah. That was the first time they threw downfield all game.  That is what is so concerning.  The offensive game plan is awful.  They really need to get their act together, especially with such a great defense.

UGH!!!

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I was all set to deliver this rampage against Matt Nagy. How he got outcoached by Doug Pederson. How the decision to keep Cody Parkey on the roster came back to bite him in the ass. How he decided not to get Tarik Cohen involved in the offense when the guy is his number one threat. How he seemed to get really conservative when the very thing that got him there in the first place was his willingness to take chances.

Then something occurred to me and I fell in a deep sleep thinking about how many days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

The Bears were never supposed to be this good, this first year under the Matt Nagy regime. I went to look up 2018 NFL season record predictions, randomly found Sports Illustrated, and a writer in SI who picked the Bears picked to go 4-12 and the Eagles to go 12-4. They also had the Vikings at 13-3 and the Packers at 12-4. Most places had them finishing in last place.

in SI in June they said

The Bears got better at crucial positions they had to get better at this offseason. Chicago brought in Taylor Gabriel, Allen Robinson and Trey Burton to help their second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The offensive line took a big hit losing guard Josh Sitton and the defense, while improved with Roquan Smith at linebacker, still needs to find a pass rush. It may take one more year for this group to gel.

Granted it was before the team got Khalil Mack but the point is that they got considerably better than how they looked on paper with a first year head coach.

They other thing that is incredibly encouraging is that they’re a young team. Five years ago they were ranked 29th in the league with an average age of 26. 8 and this year they’re ranked 10th with an average age of 25.7, the same as the Eagles and the Packers.

Ryan Pace did what he said he was going to do, he made the team younger, which made the team better.

Just look at what’s coming—-Roquan Smith, 21, James Daniels 21, Bilal Nichols 22, Tarik Cohen 23, Mitchell Trubisky 24, Anthony Miller 24, Jordan Howard 24. All their Pro Bowl defenders——Eddie Jackson 26, Kyle Fuller 26, Khalil Mack 27, Akiem Hicks 29 are all under 30. 

Saw an interesting article   

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-coaches-and-qbs-should-divorce-after-five-years-of-not-winning/

on 538 last year about how the window for new coaches and their QB’s is about five years. Of the 31 head coaches to win at least one super bowl, 27 of them won it within the first years of that team.

Jim McMahon was drafted in ’82 the same year Mike Ditka started coaching the Bears. It took them four years and they finally did it. 

Some other pillars on that team—-Walter Payton drafted in ’75. Hampton in ’79, Mike Singletary in ’81, Richard Dent in ’83, The point is it took some time.

But not too much time. In the history of Chicago Bear coaches only Ditka and Lovie Smith made had multiple playoff appearances. Ditka made it to the playoffs 7 times and Lovie Smith 2. 

Jack Pardee made it to the playoffs once, Neil Armstrong once, Dave Wannstedt once, Dick Jauron once. They were all fired soon after.

Another big point is that a team often catches fire one year only to revert back to being a mediocre team the next. There are very few Sean McVay’s who was 11-5 last year and then was 13-3 this year. That will be the challenge for Matt Nagy. Can he improve on an already incredible year? Or will it prove to be an outlier, a fluke, something he won’t be able to reproduce?

Another thing about the Bears offense that showed promise is that they have a lot of guile and at times look really competent. In the Eagles game they came back when they had to (the last drive notwithstanding). 

You hope that as Trubiksy grows more comfortable in clutch situations when the game is on the line, and that Nagy starts to have more trust in him and as an offense they can really start to control the ball when they have to. Most Super Bowl winning teams have offenses who control the ball, make big plays, and score a lot of points.

One last thought. Like a lot of fans I thought this could’ve been the year, but I think something is missing on the offensive side of the ball. A LeVeon Bell or Kareem Hunt kind of back I think is needed. Somebody great. Somebody who is a difference maker. An All Pro. For Trubisky to be that great player he has to be, he’ll need great support. 

But the number of throws that should’ve been picked off yesterday and really the whole season, leave the judgment of how good he is still way up in the air. The clock is ticking. Unless he gets really bad, he’ll have about 2-3 years to prove it.

It all stings with that typical Chicago Bear disappointment. The truth of the matter is that to be a Chicago Bear fan is a difficult proposition. In fact it’s really fu*&ing hard being a Chicago Bears fan. They’re an enormously mediocre franchise trying to sell a championship team to a hungry fan base. 

There are franchises like the Steelers, and the Niners, and the Giants, and the Patriots, and the Packers, and then there are franchises like the Bears. The difference is so palpable. The expectations are from legitimately different sides of town and walks of life. How do you change a culture like that without taking a lot of risks?

36 days until pitchers and catchers report.

108 days until the NFL draft.

204 days until Bourbonnais training camp.

UGH! 

Good bye 2018 Bears it was fun.

It’s already taking too long.