There might not be a team in the NFL that had a more disappointing season in 2014 than the Chicago Bears.

There were worse teams, certainly, but with Jay Cutler nearly underperforming his way right out of Chicago and general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman managing their way to their own departures, it’s safe to say the 2014 campaign was disastrous.

Just a couple seasons ago, the Bears boasted a defense that could force turnovers out of nowhere and an offense that flashed elite potential. But somehow, they now find themselves in something of a rebuilding mode.

Here’s how it’s going so far.

The Staff Is Completely Reconstructed

To its credit, the Chicago ownership seems to have realized that a full revamping of the coaching staff was needed.

The first move was to replace Emery with Ryan Pace, a veteran of the Saints front office but a first time GM. And for his part Pace has gotten off to a quick start constructing the staff and team he wants to work with.

Rather than listing all of the new members of the Chicago coaching staff, suffice it to say Pace hired John Fox away from the Denver Broncos, and the rest of the staff was filled out primarily with former Broncos offensive coaches and former San Francisco 49ers defensive coaches.

That, on paper, is a pretty successful transition — not to mention Fox has gained a reputation for being the catalyst in quick team rebounds.

Naturally, with what amounts to a whole new coaching staff in place, there has already been a significant roster overhaul, so let’s get into it.

A Busy Free Agency

The bad news for Chicago is that the free agency period was marked by a few unhappy developments.

First, the team finally waved goodbye to star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, trading him to the New York Jets for a future pick swap; and second, defensive tackle Ray McDonald was signed only to be arrested for domestic violence and promptly released.

Fortunately, though, it wasn’t all bad news in free agency, and the Bears made a few very useful pickups as well:

Pernell McPhee (LB) – The former Raven may wind up being the most impactful of the new Bears. A fearsome pass rusher, he’s thought to be a perfect fit for the new 3-4 defensive scheme John Fox and Co. will put into place.

Antrel Rolle (S) – Rolle is one of a handful of new players who will bring a new look to the Bears secondary, and specifically will act as an immediate replacement for Chris Conte.

Eddie Royal (WR) – Royal isn’t the most exciting name at the WR position, but he gets the job done, and did so to the tune of a very strong 2014 season with San Diego. He’s quick and steady, and will give Jay Cutler the sort of dynamic slot threat he’s never really had.

Alan Ball (CB) – Ball will join Rolle in revamping the secondary. He missed half the season in 2014 but was a solid contributor in his time on the field.

There were actually several other acquisitions as well, as the new coaching staff attempts to put its own team together under Ryan Pace, but those four in particular should have noticeable impacts early on.

A Strong, Top-Heavy Draft

The Bears had the sort of draft in which the top pick winds up getting just about all the attention. That may or may not be a good thing, but if said top pick pans out as expected, the draft will have been a strong one overall.

Here are some of the standout picks:

Kevin White (WR – West Virginia) – Kevin White, quite simply, is the immediate replacement for Brandon Marshall. He’s a big, talented, downfield threat who could thrive opposite Alshon Jeffery. There may be a bit of a learning curve, but White is ultimately the kind of weapon Jay Cutler thrives with, when he’s playing well.

Eddie Goldman (DT – Florida State) – In 2014, the Bears’ rush defense was pretty awful, and Goldman is meant to be a solution to that problem. This selection became even more significant after the unexpected release of McDonald.

Hroniss Grasu (C – Oregon) – Grasu probably won’t see much time in 2015 given the signing of veteran Center Will Montgomery. But he could be a long-term starter.

Adrian Amos (S – Penn State) – Amos could wind up being a real steal. He’s a terrific athlete with natural coverage ability who could factor in significantly to the re-tooling of the Chicago secondary.

And The Verdict Is….

The Bears did what they had to, and started the turnaround.

It’s not an offseason to get wildly excited about, but it shows a clear direction, and that’s more than Chicago could say throughout 2014.

By Joe Messineo


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