For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, those are not the Bears. The imaginary Bears are a great football team, the Bears in Matt Nagy’s mind, the Bears swapping praise with one another, the Bears that exist against the Giants and the Lions, the Bears that should be at least 10-6 instead of the other way around, those Bears. It is not just after a rare rout that brings on giddiness and visible laughter, but also when incompetence is the usual, when the Bears can’t block or tackle or catch or throw or run the right play. It is also when evidence that the Bears are as far away from NFL distinction as are the wretched footwipes from New York, the Bears will insist that things are not really as bad as they really are, that they love and admire each other and possibly their coach as well. Words like “super” and “special” and “rare” get tossed around as if they are true, as if they are earned. Bears are “phenomenal” or their “care factor” is off the charts. You hear this and you look around to make sure the cast from Marvel Comics has not slipped into the room. These sorts of exaggerations do not apply just to Justin Fields who has yet to merit any of them, but to Robert Quinn, for whom they are true, and to Darnell Mooney, of whom they may one day be true, and to Khyiris Tonga, the new Fridge, described by Nagy as a “bowling ball,” clearly needing a catchier nickname. This is all by way of affection and delusion, I suppose, surely to keep the Bears’ minds on a job unfinished by schedule if not by reality. “We are guaranteed one more week,” said Nagy, which may refer to himself more than the team. What is the reward for such self-deception? A Sunday in the park against a team with nothing to win, or with nothing to lose, a team so eager to get back to New York with the Bears’ draft choice in its pocket, that it will give away the game on the very first play. “It’s nice to have one of these happen,” said Andy Dalton, the wrong quarterback at the right time, summing up the win over the Giants. “They deserve this,” said Nagy of so easy a victory, when, as I have reminded before, deserve’s got nothing to do with it. The Bears, you see, have great character and great work ethic, and not a bit of quit in any of them, full of effort and dedication, ignoring more often than not that the final score says none of that matters. “ln a long season, a lot of stuff happens,” said Nagy. “Things don’t work out. In the end we didn’t win those games. “The players fight through. The effort jumped out at me. That’s the same effort all year. This isn’t something that just kicked in. “You could get to the point where you don’t get the effort. That’s not going to happen.” At this point, I find myself going back to the barracks for another old verse, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/and treat those two impostors just the same …”and it goes on and on like that until, at the end, through a whole lot more “ifs,” you will be in the playoffs, my son, or something like that. Bunk is bunk, even when it rhymes. Here’s what’s real. The Bears have wasted a season on Fields, and maybe some of his health, when both Dalton or especially Nick Foles could have done just as well or better, and all those rare and special teammates would have had a real chance to win football games. At what cost? Well, probably Nagy’s job, and maybe Ryan Pace’s as well — he being the assembler of all those rare and special players. The rare and special players will be overpaid, the not so special coaches will find other jobs and Team McCaskey will continue living in the last century.

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