For those hungry for intrigue this offseason, we present the absolute best-case scenario that will come to fruition during Sunday’s early games.
The Bears have clinched the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft thanks to a Texans win over the hapless Colts and a Bears loss to the Vikings on Sunday. The most valuable commodity in any draft, and especially this draft, is a quarterback. In this case, Alabama’s Bryce Young. The Bears already have a quarterback. Unless they don’t. As the current draft order stands, at least six teams in the top 10 need quarterbacks.
While Occam’s razor tells us that the simplest solution is almost always the right one, says Fr. William of Ockham was never around to see an NFL season. Here, in this league, owners hire their best friends off TV in the middle of the season and fire talented coaches. People are tipping for no reason, down 31 points in the fourth quarter of a lost year with no playoff prospects. The NFL makes so little sense that only people who understand it, cover it, and depend on it for their livelihood can soberly pass off its machinations as anything resembling normalcy.
So I don’t think the Bears are just going to patiently wait until draft day, take the best player on the board and throw up their hands. At least it’s going to be weird.
Among the scenarios we can imagine entertaining in the coming months:
• The Bears could reaffirm their faith in Justin Fields and open up the No. 1 pick for a bidding war. The Texans, who currently have the Nos. 2, 12 and 34 picks in the draft, and six picks in the top 104, could find themselves at war with the Colts (No. 4 and four picks in the top 106), Seahawks (No. 5 and 20, and six picks in the top 122), Raiders (No. 7 and four picks in the top 109), Falcons (No. 8 and five picks in the top 113) or Panthers (No. 9 and five picks in the top 114). Given the scarcity of the position, we could see an aggressive push to climb to #1.
• As an extension of that idea, we could see a surprise maneuver from a team outside the top 10 if free agency doesn’t shape up in their favor. The Jets, Commanders, Titans, Buccaneers, Ravens and Giants all face monumental questions at the position and have the ability to win now, depending on who is under center.
• The Bears could instead stay quiet, opting not to confirm their faith in Fields, too vaguely inviting speculation about what they might do with the pick, which would be a true test of leadership finesse for a first-time head coach and GM.
• The Bears could legitimately consider Young or any of the other top quarterbacks in the draft, which would immediately raise questions about whether they see Fields as the long-term answer, much in the same way the Raiders opened the door to a Derek release Carr during the Jon Gruden era by evaluating Kyler Murray (and Tom Brady, and just about every other quarterback available).
• The Bears could just take a No. 1 quarterback and keep Fields, letting the media circus rush training camp this summer like it was the opening of the Waste Management Open for the best legitimate offseason QB battle since Tim Tebow vs. Mark Sanchez.
• The Bears could open the door to a potential trade for Fields, which seems like the absolute least realistic scenario, but must be remembered given that Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus didn’t draft second-year QBs and are now in a position to potentially draft their own franchise – quarterback.
It’s hard to believe the Cardinals drafted Murray just four years ago. In the months leading up to the draft, the franchise did a terrible job of masking its displeasure with incumbent starter Josh Rosen and its love of Murray as a player. That led to a ridiculously thin attempt at subterfuge before Arizona finally upgraded at the position and gave Rosen away for pocket change.
This is not to say that Fields is the Rose, nor that the Bears are the Cardinals. But there is evidence that, given months of runway to prepare the optics and logistics of a franchise-altering move in the draft, even the most seasoned PR spinners can fall flat on their faces.
The Bears have an opportunity to come out of this much better-armored as a franchise, flush with both picks and $125 million in cap space, and enough equity to turn their defense into a death trap like we saw Eberflus run in Indianapolis. Despite their losing record, they managed to legitimize Fields to the point where the larger audience sees his superstar potential. It is, as we’ve noted countless times this season, the rare circumstance where a team ended up with the No. 1 pick, didn’t have to bare the tank to do so, and still might end up providing more hope and less cynicism for fan base than when the season started.
They also have a chance to let all that goodwill melt if they don’t handle this golden ticket properly. We, the football viewers, are eagerly awaiting the results.