Chicago Bears just might not be as far behind as people think

  • Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Minneapolis.

    Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Minneapolis.

 
 
Updated 2/4/2020 6:17 AM

MIAMI -- So just who will the 2020 Bears be?

The 2018 12-4 NFC North champs, better, or the club that moonwalked its way to 8-8, parked dead center in the middle of the NFL road?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Based on what we've seen the past two years, just how far are the Bears from the NFL's elite?

Clearly the measuring sticks are the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, and we know how huge a difference just one off-season done right can make.

Quarterbacks:

Patrick Mahomes is in a league of his own right now, end of conversation. However, in Super Bowl 54 on Sunday, Jimmy Garoppolo made many of the same mistakes the Bears' Mitch Trubisky does, and Garoppolo has been in the league twice as long and is nowhere near the athlete Trubisky is.

I'm not predicting anything here, but for at least one more season, Trubisky's ceiling remains as high or higher than Garoppolo's.

Running backs:

The 49ers' ground game is the best in the NFL, but it's based on scheme and blocking, not its backs -- all good but none special.

Though the Chiefs' rushing attack is more explosive than the Bears', it is no more consistent or productive, and it's quite possible David Montgomery will turn out to be the best NFL back on any of these three teams, and either Tarik Cohen or Cordarrelle Patterson could be the most explosive.

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The question: Can coach Matt Nagy figure out what to do with them?

Receivers:

The Chiefs have the best group in the NFL. San Francisco's is pedestrian, at best, although rookie Deebo Samuel may possess an Allen Robinson-like future.

Robinson is a solid No. 1 for the Bears. If Anthony Miller's shoulder returns to 100 percent and Taylor Gabriel can stay on the field (assuming he isn't an off-season cap casualty), with Riley Ridley's upside the Bears can contend here with most clubs, other than the Chiefs.

Tight end:

In Travis Kelce and George Kittle, the Chiefs and 49ers have the two best in the game. The Bears have nothing, and the problem is magnified by the importance of the position in Nagy's offense.

It's the one position where the Bears aren't close to being in the conversation.

Offensive line:

The 49ers' Joe Staley is the only better than average left tackle on any of these teams, while Kansas City's Mitchell Schwartz is one of the NFL's best right tackles and the Niners' Mike McGlinchey is a solid up and comer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Bears must upgrade the OT position. But both Super Bowl teams are pedestrian in the interior from guard to guard, and the Bears' Cody Whitehair and James Daniels may just offer more upside inside than either conference champ.

Defensive front:

You can't compare defensive lines because the Chiefs and 49ers are built around "40" fronts and the Bears are a 3-4 team.

But as good as Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, Chris Jones and Frank Clark are, we know the Bears' Akiem Hicks is as good or better, Khalil Mack is better, and Eddie Goldman and Roquan Smith certainly make the Bears' front seven the equal of these two, possibly the best with a year under coordinator Chuck Pagano's belt.

Secondary:

Again, Richard Sherman and Tyrann Mathieu are special, but with Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson, the Bears' DB corps -- like Kansas City and San Francisco -- includes two former first-team all-pros and is certainly the equal of the three, if not the best.

Special teams:

The Bears have the best return game in the league, and as long as Eddy Pineiro continues to grow they can contend with these guys right now.

Coaches:

Andy Reid is in rare air, with only Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll. Also, Kyle Shanahan is well ahead of Nagy today. But who is Nagy really, the 2018 NFL Coach of the Year or the guy who led that 2019 moonwalk?

Focusing on the nucleus of these three clubs -- all have free-agent and injury issues to deal with -- the only spots where the Bears are significantly deficient are tight end and left tackle, while they obviously have serious riddles to unravel at quarterback and head coach.

No, The Bears are definitely not contenders right now.

But other contenders, and even Super Bowl champs, have cured a lot more ills in just one off-season than the Bears have to solve to get there.

• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at harkush@profootballweekly.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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