Today's absurd prediction:
The Bears continue the trend of Super Bowl Letdown Syndrome.
Super Bowl Letdown Syndrome arguably started the season following Super Bowl XXVIII, when the Buffalo Bills finally failed to win the AFC, finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs. Since that time, the team who lost the Super Bowl has failed to get past the divisional round in the playoffs every time. Others would argue that the Syndrome didn't truly start until the 2001 season when the Giants started a five-year streak of losing seasons for the previous year's Super Bowl loser. Some would contest that the Seahawks broke the loser curse last year. Yeah right. A 9-7 finish in one of the worst divisions in NFL history was a great season. Winning a playoff game thanks to a botched snap. That's the stuff of legends. No, the Seahawks continued the trend and merely lucked out that the rest of their division was mediocre. The Bears will do the same this year.
Here's the breakdown for the Chicago Bears:
Coaching Changes: C-
I despise the way they handled Ron Rivera. He could have gotten one of the head coaching vacancies if he hadn't been busy coordinating a defense to single-handedly win the NFC championship. Then contract disputes dragged on, he didn't get a better job, his contract wasn't renewed, and he's a linebackers coach in San Diego now. I think it's safe to say he's well on his way to taking over after the inevitable Norv Turner firing, but for now his situation flat-out sucks. Only a C- for a move I despised? I'm glad you asked. The fact of the matter is, he and Lovie Smith have some different philosophies and butted heads a bit. Lovie brought in an old friend from St. Louis, Bob Babich. Babich has never been a DC before, but he's worked under Lovie's scheme and Chicago is the best place to try on his coordinator training wheels. I also don't like how long Lovie's contract talks dragged on - the money issues with this organization are going to keep great players from sticking with the team, which isn't good for the Bears or their fan base.
Player Movement: D-
One move earns this grade: giving Thomas Jones to the Jets for a swap of second-round picks. That'd be like going to the liquor store and having the cashier say, "You want that bottle of Bombay Sapphire? Let's see, you give me twelve bucks, I'll give you ten back, and we'll call it even." "Are you sure? That's way too good of a deal." "Yeah, it's cool, we have a Beefeater still on the shelf. Now we've got all this shelf room. Really, we're ripping you off. I can't have that on my conscience. I'll give you eleven back." And what do they do with all that "shelf" room? Not a thing. Their most exciting new player? Adam Archuleta. Washington's burnout safety. I think he'll do better reunited with Babich and Lovie, but he's still not who he used to be. At least they re-signed Ruben Brown. Breaking up this line is the last thing they would want to do.
I really think Greg Olsen is a good fit for the team. Rex Grossman needs someone to throw to in the short game, and to take the safeties away from the receivers a bit. Their second and third picks were considered reaches, because both DE Daniel Bazuin and RB Garrett Wolfe have legitimate questions about how well they can do in the NFL. Bazuin was a sack machine his junior year, but tends to play a little recklessly. Wolfe is tiny and wears down. I like both picks, and think Chicago is the right sort of place for them to succeed, but the Bears probably could have gotten Bazuin in the 3rd and Wolfe in the 4th. Wolfe complements Cedric Benson very well, and could become a fan favorite with a huge run or two per game. They turned the pick they got from the Jets into three other picks from the Chargers, including the pick immediately before the one New York got. Follow that? They traded the 31st pick in the 2nd round for the 5th along with Jones, and then traded that 5th for the 30th, along with the 30th picks of the 3rd and 5th rounds. So essentially, those two picks -- Wolfe and S Kevin Payne -- are what Jones was traded for.
This would be an A+, except the draws of New Orleans and Seattle on the road are no picnic. But as has been the case for three years now, preying on Green Bay, Minnesota, and Detroit will make for a very easy schedule. The AFC West will be rough, but at least Kansas City is a home game early in the season, so that should be a win, making them likely 2-2 out of conference. That's more than enough to secure a playoff berth. The NFC East will also be challenging, with road games vs. Washington (late in the season when they should really start getting dangerous) and Philadelphia.
The locker room is kind of a mess right now. Tommie Harris is "joking" about bringing in Donovan McNabb at quarterback, Lance Briggs swears he'll never play for the Bears again, and many in the organization distrust the ownership due to perceptions of stinginess. Add to that the disappointment of last year's Super Bowl loss, and there's all kinds of negative energy that isn't going to help them defend their NFC title one bit. New Orleans is going to be eager to demolish them after the shameful way the Bears fans treated the suffering city in the NFC championship.
The Record: 10-6
Many teams would do far better given this schedule. Grossman's brainfart interceptions will cost them a few games, in some they'll beat themselves, and in others they'll simply be outplayed. I don't expect them to win a playoff game this year, either. And maybe that'll finally convince Lovie to draft a quarterback.